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Survey Research


Survey Research. What ... If the purpose of the research is to become more familiar with ... Research has shown that token financial incentives will increase ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Survey Research

Survey Research
What is a Survey?
  • Researchers are often interested in the opinions
    of a large group of people about a particular
    topic or issue.

Three Major Characteristics
  • Information is collected from a group of people
    in order to describe some aspect of the
  • Information is collected by asking questions of
    the members of the selected group
  • Information is collected from a sample rather
    than from every member of the population

Descriptive Survey Research
  • End Sought
  • Exploration
  • If the purpose of the research is to become more
    familiar with phenomena, to gain new insights, or
    to formulate a more specific research problem or

Descriptive Survey Research
  • End Sought
  • Description
  • If we want to portray accurately the incidence,
    distribution and characteristics of a group or

Why Are Surveys Conducted?
  • The purpose of surveys is to describe the
    characteristics of a population.
  • Researchers find out how the members of a
    population distribute themselves on one or more

Why Are Surveys Conducted?
  • A selected sample is surveyed and the description
    of the population is inferred from what is found
    out about the sample.
  • In descriptive surveys, researchers are not as
    concerned about why the observed distribution
    exists as with what the distribution is.

Social Exchange Theory
  • A theory of human behavior used to explain the
    development continuation of human interaction.
  • Asserts that actions of individuals are motivated
    by the return these actions are expected to
    bring, and in fact usually do bring, from others.

Social Exchange Theory
  • Three elements are critical for predicting a
    particular action
  • Rewards,
  • Costs
  • Trust

  • What one expects to gain from a particular

  • What one gives up or spends to obtain the reward

  • Is the expectation that in the long run the
    rewards of doing something will outweigh the
  • The likelihood or responding to a request to
    complete a self-administered questionnaire, and
    doing so accurately, is greater when the
    respondent trusts that the expected rewards of
    responding will outweigh the anticipated costs.

Social Exchange Theory
  • Implies 3 questions about the design of a
    questionnaire and the implementation process.
  • How can we increase rewards for responding?
  • How can perceived costs be reduced?
  • How can trust be established so that the ultimate
    rewards will outweigh the costs of responding?

Show Positive Regard
  • Thibaut Kelly (1959) noted that being regarded
    positively by another person has reward value to
    many people.
  • Give respondents reasons why the survey is being
    done, provide toll-free numbers to call with
    questions, and personally address correspondences

Say Thank You
  • Blau (1964) argues that a time-consuming service
    of great material benefit (like a survey) could
    be appropriately repaid in a social exchange
    context by mere verbal appreciation

Ask for Advice
  • Both Blau (1964) and Homans (1961) have pointed
    out that the feeling of being asked for help,
    advice, or assistance provides a sense of reward
    to people.

Support Group Values
  • Blau (1964) noted that supporting a persons
    values can instill a sense of reward in
  • Depending on the survey population, sponsorship,
    and topic, one can often appeal to values shared
    widely by those who are surveyed.

Give Tangible Rewards
  • Research has shown that token financial
    incentives will increase response rates
    (reciprocal obligation)
  • Only a dollar or two, enclosed with the request
    to complete a questionnaire
  • Outperforms promises to send a larger reward

Make the Questionnaire Interesting
  • Cialdini (1984) argued that liking to do
    something is a powerful determinant of behavior.

  • Heberlein Baumgartner (1978) showed that
    questionnaires on topics of high salience to
    recipients are more likely to be returned.

Make the Questionnaire Interesting
  • Questionnaires can be made more interesting to
    respondents by
  • improving layout and design,
  • ordering questions so the more interesting ones
    are placed at the beginning, and
  • making questions easy to understand and answer.

Give Social Validation
  • Knowing that other people like themselves have
    completed a similar action can strongly influence
    peoples willingness to comply with a request.

Give Social Validation
  • In other words, some people are socially
    validated by seeing themselves as similar to most
    others in a group.
  • Therefore in later attempts to encourage
    response, telling people that many others have
    already responded encourages them to act in a
    similar way.

An Opportunity for You
  • Inform respondents that opportunities to respond
    are scarce
  • Telling people that there are relatively few
    opportunities to respond and that they may not
    have an opportunity to respond unless they do so
    quickly can influence people to act (Groves et
    al., 1992).

Deadline to Respond
  • Deadlines to respond can make a difference
  • If it is not too quick of a deadline that then
    feels like a cost (needing to put something else

Avoid Subordinating Language
  • For us to help solve the school problems in your
    community it is necessary for you to complete the
    questionnaire vs. Would you please do me a

Avoid Subordinating Language
  • Former implies that the respondent is dependent
    upon the letter writer.
  • Blau (1964) argues that people prefer not to be
    subordinate to others. Not responding is an easy
    way of avoiding a sense of being subordinated.

Avoid Embarrassment
  • Thibaut and Kelly (1959) pointed out that costs
    to an individual are higher when great physical
    or mental effort is required, and when
    embarrassment or anxiety accompany the action.

Ways of Reducing Social Costs
  • Questionnaires often get discarded when the
    respondent peruses the questionnaire but cant
    figure out where to start, or what the first
    question means.
  • Not being able to read well or not being able to
    express ones self in writing are similar social

Avoid inconvenience
  • Not including a return envelope lowers response
  • Including a return envelope with a real stamp(s)
    on it also improves response rate over a business
    reply envelope.

Make It Short and Easy
  • Questionnaires that appear shorter and easy to
    fill out lessen the perceived costs of
  • Such appearance can be reinforced by indicating
    in the cover letter that responding should only
    take a few minutes

Obtaining Personal Information
  • Minimize requests to obtain personal information
  • Some information people do not want to reveal to
  • E.g. annual income, past sexual behavior, method
    of disciplining children, or use of drugs

Obtaining Personal Information
  • Minimize requests to obtain personal information
  • Suggestions
  • Use specific wording to try to soften the
  • Add explanation as to why the question is
  • Explain how the information will be kept
    confidential or even anonymous.

Similar Requests
  • Keep requests similar to other requests to which
    a person has already responded

Similar Requests
  • People who have committed themselves to a
    position are more likely to comply with requests
    to do something consistent with that position
    (Cialdini, 1984).
  • e.g. someone who has completed a small survey for
    you is more likely to complete another survey
    later (pretest and then a posttest)

Tokens of Appreciation
  • Provide a token of appreciation in advance
  • Although 1-2 may have little direct reward, it
    seems to have a greater value in creating trust.

Up-front Rewards
  • Rewards up-front shows the researcher trusts the
    potential respondent.
  • Uncancelled stamps on return envelope create the
    same effect.
  • Call it a small token of appreciation vs.
    payment for their time (subordinate)

Sponsorship by Legitimate Authority
  • More likely to comply with a request if it comes
    from an authoritative source.
  • Government surveys typically receive a higher
    response rate than marketing surveys.

Use of Authority
  • Use of authority can increase response rates
  • Most surveys are voluntary but many government
    surveys are not. In these cases, requiring a
    response does increase response rate.

Make the Task Appear Important
  • Appeal to people on the basis that something
    important will ultimately happened as a result of
    the survey.
  • Printing personalized cover letters on letterhead
    stationary and a well-designed questionnaire can
    create this perception.
  • Form letters and sloppy questionnaires do not.

Invoke other Relationships
  • Use other exchange relationships to help evoke a
    response (doing a favor)
  • Alumni helping out.

Tailored Design
  • Is the development of survey procedures that
    create respondent trust and perceptions of
    increased rewards and reduce costs for being a
  • Takes into account features of the survey
    situation and have as their goal the overall
    reduction of survey error.

Tailored Design
  • Exchange concepts must be communicated visually
    (rather than verbally) through the use of visual
    design principles for the development of the
    questionnaire and implementation materials
  • Successful tailored design seeks to reduce survey

Types of Surveys
  • There are two types of surveys
  • Cross-sectional
  • Longitudinal

Cross-sectional Survey
  • Collects information from a sample that has been
    drawn from a predetermined population
  • Information is collected at just one point in
    time, even though it could take days to gather
    all the data
  • A census is when the entire population is surveyed

Types of Surveys
  • Longitudinal survey
  • Information is collected at different points in
    time in order to study changes over time
  • Three types are employed
  • Trend study
  • Cohort Study
  • Panel Study

Issues to Consider
  • Population
  • Sampling
  • Questions
  • Content
  • Bias
  • Administrative

Population Issues
  • Can the population be enumerated?
  • Is the population literate?
  • Are there language issues?
  • Will the population cooperate?
  • What are the geographic restrictions?

Sampling Issues
  • What data is available?
  • Can respondents be found?
  • Who is the respondent?
  • Can all members of the population be sampled?
  • Are response rates likely to be a problem?

Questions Issues
  • What types of questions can you ask?
  • How complex will the questions be?
  • Will screening questions be needed?
  • Can question sequence be controlled?
  • Will lengthy questions be asked?
  • Will long response scales be used?

Content Issues
  • Can respondents be expected to know about the
  • Will respondents need to consult records?

Bias Issues
  • Can social desirability be avoided?
  • Can interviewer distortion and subversion be
  • Can false respondents be avoided?

Administrative Issues
  • Costs
  • Facilities
  • Time
  • Personnel

Steps in Survey Research
  • The following steps are used in conjunction with
    performing proper surveys in research
  • Defining the problem
  • Identifying the target population (unit of

Steps in Survey Research
  • The following steps (cont.)
  • Choosing the mode of data collection
  • Direct administration
  • Mail surveys
  • Telephone surveys
  • Personal interviews

Advantages and Disadvantages of Survey
Data-Collection Methods
Example of an Ideal vs. an Actual Telephone
Sample for a Specific Question
Steps in Survey Research (cont.)
  • Selecting the sample
  • Training interviewers

Steps in Survey Research (cont.)
  • Preparing the instrument (questionnaire)
  • Closed-ended questions
  • Open-ended questions
  • Pre-testing the questionnaire
  • Format
  • Cover letter

Constructing the Questionnaire
  • Involves much more than the manipulation of
  • Paper size and binding
  • Determining which questions will encourage the
    recipient to start responding and keep going
    until the end.
  • Layout decisions must be made that involve
    spacing, size, and brightness.

Alternative Questionnaire Formats
  • Booklets higher response rates
  • 8½" x 14" legal paper
  • Creates an 8½" x 7" booklet
  • Folded length-wise will fit in a standard
    business stationary envelope
  • 11" x 17 paper
  • Creates an 8½" x 11" booklet
  • Can consider two columns per page

Alternative Questionnaire Formats
  • IF not doing a booklet, print on only one side of
    the sheet with a staple in upper left corner.

Criteria for Ordering the Questions
  • A questionnaire is like a conversation.
  • One question should lead to the next like a
    person listening during a conversation.
    Constantly changing topics is confusing.

Criteria for Ordering Questions
  • Begin by order questions from most salient to
  • Take into account what is the stated purpose of
    the study.
  • Objectionable questions are placed near the end
    of the questionnaire.

Criteria for Ordering Questions
  • Try to order in a way that will be logical to the
  • Consider grouping similar questions in sections
  • Consider how question may influence answers to
    subsequent questions
  • e.g. dont ask summary questions before specific
    domain questions

Choose the 1st Question Carefully
  • No question is more critical than the first one.
  • Will more likely determine whether survey is
    returned or trashed.

Choose the 1st Question Carefully
  • Suggestions
  • First question should clearly apply to everyone
  • Should be easy so that all respondents will need
    only a few seconds to read, comprehend, and
    respond to it.

Choose the 1st Question Carefully
  • Suggestions
  • Needs to be interesting
  • Connectedness between the respondent and survey
    purpose (as understood by that person) is clearly

To Achieve a High Response Rate
  • Respondent friendly questionnaire
  • Four contacts by First Class mail, with an
    additional special contact
  • Return envelopes with real First-Class stamps
  • Personalization of correspondence
  • Token prepaid financial incentive

First Contact
  • A brief prenotice letter
  • Sent to the respondent a few days prior to the

First Contact (cont.)
  • It notes that a questionnaire for an important
    survey will arrive in a few more days and that
    the persons response would be greatly
  • Highlight what will happen, what it is about,
    usefulness of the survey, and a closing thank you
  • As a P.S., you could mention the token of

Second Contact
  • The initial questionnaire mailing. Packet to
  • Cover Letter
  • Appropriately constructed, letterhead, signed
  • Questionnaire
  • Booklet, saddleback stapled, figure on front
    page, back page blank.

Second Contact Packet (cont.)
  • Pre-addressed, stamped (real), return envelope
  • Incentive
  • Returned card (?), mailed flat, commemorative
    stamps, etc.

Third Contact
  • A thank you postcard
  • Sent a few days to a week after the
  • The mailing expresses appreciation for
    responding, and indicates that if the completed
    questionnaire has not yet been mailed it is hoped
    that it will be returned soon.

Fourth Contacts
  • A replacement questionnaire
  • Sent to nonrespondents 2-4 weeks after the
    previous questionnaire.
  • Indicates that the persons completed
    questionnaire has not yet been received and urges
    the recipient to respond.

Final Contact
  • May be made by telephone a week or so after the
    fourth contact (if telephone numbers are
  • This special contact has been shown to add an
    additional 13 response

More Contacts?
  • Up to 20 follow-ups have been shown to be

Recommended Steps in Conducting a Mailed Survey
  • Key Points
  • Get as many responses as possible
  • Control non-response error.

Internet or Web-based Surveys
  • Becoming more popular
  • Know you population sample
  • Computer users?
  • Dial-up or broadband?
  • Design you own or use web-based survey companies
  • e.g. Survey Monkey http//

Mixed Mode or Bi-modal Survey
  • Some recent work on combining methods.
  • Start with web and use mailings for subsequent/
    final rounds.

Evaluating Threats to Internal Validity in Survey
  • There are four main threats to internal validity
    in survey research
  • Mortality
  • Location
  • Instrumentation
  • Instrument decay

Non-response Error
  • Non-response is a serious problem in many
  • Members of the sample cannot be reached
    (non-deliverables) or refuse to respond

Non-response Error
  • In almost all surveys, some members of the sample
    will not respond.
  • Item non-response is due to unclear or
    questionable forms of wording.

Proposed Procedures for Handling Nonresponse
  • When 85 not achieved
  • Comparison of early to late respondents
  • Waves?Min 30 or 50
  • Using Days to Respond as a regression variable
  • Compare respondents to nonrespondents
  • Random sample ? Min 20 or use 1 or 2

Data Analysis in Survey Research
  • After researchers receive the completed
    questionnaires, the task of summarizing the
    results remains.
  • The total size of the sample and total percentage
    of returns should be reported.

Data Analysis (cont.)
  • The percentage of the total sample responding for
    each item should be reported.
  • The percentage of respondents who chose each
    alternative for each question should be given.

Summary of Descriptive Research
  • Primary end sought is to describe or explore
  • Describe present status, accurate description of
    the incidence and distribution of phenomena.

Summary of Descriptive Research
  • Usually conducted in a natural setting
  • Data collected by mail or Internet questionnaire
    interview, or telephone.

Summary of Survey Research
  • Generally interested in making generalizations
    about populations, so sampling is involved.
  • Necessitates probability (random) sampling.
  • Census of all subjects can be done.

Summary of Survey Research
  • Usually, survey research does not involve the
    testing of hypotheses about relationships between
  • Consequently, variables are not identified as
    independent or dependent since the variables are
    used to describe status only.
  • Can use hypotheses to compare 2 or more groups.

Summary of Survey Research
  • Specific objectives stated as subquestions to be

Summary of Survey Research
  • Advantages of Survey Research
  • Possible to collect a wide scope of information
    from a large population.
  • Deals with the real situation data are collected
    in the actual situation.
  • May be necessary first step in developing
  • Or in identifying more specific problems for
    research that goes beyond description only.

Summary of Survey Research
  • Disadvantages of Survey Research
  • Usually more extensive than intensive.
  • Ordinarily does not penetrate very deeply below
    the surface
  • Sometimes demanding of time and money.

Summary of Survey Research
  • Disadvantages (cont.)
  • Frequently lacks external validity
  • Frequently difficult to obtain valid data
  • Involves slicing-time
  • Is this time representative of other times?

Summary of Survey Research
  • Require a great deal of research knowledge and
  • Looks easy but isnt
  • Sampling
  • Handling non-response error
  • Design, construction, and testing of
    questionnaires and interview schedules get to be
    major undertakings.

Summary of Survey Research
  • The interpretation possible is description only.
  • Explanation or prediction of phenomena is not
    possible if research is designed to describe only.