Survey Advantages and Disadvantages

If you are thinking of a survey as part of your research study, consider this equal number of pros and cons to this method of collecting your data.

Survey Pros:

Inexpensive and easy to collect:  Especially with survey software tools and the right email addresses, you can send and collect data quicker than most other methods.

Reduced evaluator bias:  The same questions go to the same people, and if the survey is electronic, there is no chance of the evaluator skewing any data.

Familiarity:  Most people know how to fill out a survey.

Comfort:  Most people are more comfortable with a survey relative to an interview.  

Results:  Tabulating results, especially if the questions are not open-ended, is a clear process.

Simplicity:  Using a simple survey may increase the chance that people will respond to your request for information.

Survey Cons:

Low response rates:  This fact of life can threaten validity and reliability

Interpretation of survey items:  Each question may be the same, but items may be interpreted differently and need further explanation to people across cultures.

Readability:  Some possible respondents may have trouble with reading, comprehending, or decoding the survey if too much jargon is used or the survey is not written in the first language of the respondent.

Validity:  If a survey is mailed to a household, it may be impossible to know who completed the survey. 

Additional details:  Data is confined to only the information asked on the survey, and it is difficult to ask for clarification or elaboration from respondents.

Survey questions:  Writing good survey questions is not easy.  Each question takes a great deal of time to create and ensure variables are measured correctly.  Often, a pilot survey is necessary. 

For further details, check out Evaluation in Organizations by Darlene Russ-Eft and Hallie Preskill  

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