What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Surveys?
Surveys are easy to develop, especially when using the advanced survey software solutions available today. Many researchers are tempted to do much of their data collection online; however, it is not always the preferred mode of data collection, especially if respondents are in hard-to-reach areas. Whether a researcher uses an online survey, mobile survey, paper survey, or a combination of all modes, the mode should depend on the type of study and the demographics of respondents.
Online surveys and mobile surveys tend to be the most cost-effective modes of survey research, yet they may not reach those respondents that can only respond using alternate modes. Results of online surveys and mobile surveys may suffer and differ greatly if important respondents are left out of the research. Hard-to-reach respondents may be easier to reach using more traditional methods such as paper surveys or face-to-face interviews.
Advanced survey software solutions have multi-mode capabilities for online surveys, mobile surveys, email surveys, paper surveys, kiosk surveys, and more, giving researchers the ability to survey even the hardest-to reach consumers, and analyze data from all survey modes collectively.
The ability to reach respondents is one challenge of surveys. However, surveys have several advantages and disadvantages. They are as follows:
- Relatively easy to administer
- Can be developed in less time (compared to other data-collection methods)
- Cost-effective, but cost depends on survey mode
- Can be administered remotely via online, mobile devices, mail, email, kiosk, or telephone.
- Conducted remotely can reduce or prevent geographical dependence
- Capable of collecting data from a large number of respondents
- Numerous questions can be asked about a subject, giving extensive flexibility in data analysis
- With survey software, advanced statistical techniques can be utilized to analyze survey data to determine validity, reliability, and statistical significance, including the ability to analyze multiple variables
- A broad range of data can be collected (e.g., attitudes, opinions, beliefs, values, behavior, factual).
- Standardized surveys are relatively free from several types of errors
The reliability of survey data may depend on the following factors:
- Respondents may not feel encouraged to provide accurate, honest answers
- Respondents may not feel comfortable providing answers that present themselves in a unfavorable manner.
- Respondents may not be fully aware of their reasons for any given answer because of lack of memory on the subject, or even boredom.
- Surveys with closed-ended questions may have a lower validity rate than other question types.
- Data errors due to question non-responses may exist. The number of respondents who choose to respond to a survey question may be different from those who chose not to respond, thus creating bias.
- Survey question answer options could lead to unclear data because certain answer options may be interpreted differently by respondents. For example, the answer option “somewhat agree” may represent different things to different subjects, and have its own meaning to each individual respondent. ‘Yes’ or ‘no’ answer options can also be problematic. Respondents may answer “no” if the option “only once” is not available.
- Customized surveys can run the risk of containing certain types of errors