Introduction to Psychology/Surveys
The survey method of data collection is likely the most common of the four major methods. The benefits of this method include its low financial cost and its large sample size. The very large issue with the survey is its accuracy. More often than not, there is a large disparity between people's stated opinions and their expressed opinions. The survey is a reflection only of their stated opinions, and thus is fundamentally inaccurate. Properly interpreted, surveys may be used to understand a person's viewpoints on a matter, but this analysis is very difficult and also leaves much room for doubt. All in all, surveys have limited use in studying actual social action, but are inexpensive and are an excellent way to gain an understanding of a person's attitude toward a matter.
Advantages of surveys
The advantages of survey techniques include:
- It is an efficient way of collecting information from a large number of respondents. Very large samples are possible. Statistical techniques can be used to determine validity, reliability, and statistical significance.
- Surveys are flexible in the sense that a wide range of information can be collected. They can be used to study attitudes, values, beliefs, and past behaviors.
- Because they are standardized, they are relatively free from several types of errors.
- They are relatively easy to administer.
- There is an economy in data collection due to the focus provided by standardized questions. Only questions of interest to the researcher are asked, recorded, codified, and analyzed. Time and money is not spent on tangential questions.
Disadvantages of surveys
Disadvantages of survey techniques include:
- They depend on subjects’ motivation, honesty, memory, and ability to respond. Subjects may not be aware of their reasons for any given action. They may have forgotten their reasons. They may not be motivated to give accurate answers, in fact, they may be motivated to give answers that present themselves in a favorable light.
- Surveys are not appropriate for studying complex social phenomena. The individual is not the best unit of analysis in these cases. Surveys do not give a full sense of social processes and the analysis seems superficial.
- Structured surveys, particularly those with closed ended questions, may have low validity when researching affective variables.
- Survey samples are usually self-selected, and therefore non-probability samples from which the characteristics of the population sampled cannot be inferred.