Survey Study: Definition & Design

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  • 0:00 Survey Study Defined
  • 0:40 Survey Administration
  • 0:58 Representative Sample
  • 1:41 Wording Effects
  • 2:28 Courtesy Bias
  • 3:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tara DeLecce

Tara has taught Psychology and has a master's degree in evolutionary psychology.

Although most of us know what a survey is, many do not know all the tools necessary to create a survey that will yield quality data. In this lesson, you will learn about such tools.

Survey Study Defined

The survey is a method for collecting information or data as reported by individuals. Surveys are questionnaires (or a series of questions) that are administered to research participants who answer the questions themselves. Since the participants are providing the information, it is referred to as self-report data. Surveys are used to get an idea of how a group or population feels about a number of things, such as political debates, new businesses, classes, and religious views. Additionally, surveys can be a way for people to measure how often or how little people engage in different behaviors, such as smoking or drinking alcohol.

Survey Administration

Surveys can be administered in various forms, including in-person interviews, through telephone interviews, through the Internet, or a paper questionnaire that requires participants to write their answers. The ways in which surveys are administered, however, are not the most important aspect in getting valid survey results.

Representative Sample

When conducting a survey, it is of the utmost importance that the participants answering the questions are a representative sample of your target population. To be clearer, imagine you were trying to get an idea of the political views of the average American college student. It would be impossible to survey every single college student in the U.S., so you would pick a smaller sample that represents the overall views of the country's college students. If, for instance, you only surveyed students at Ivy League schools, you would only be getting an idea of how students in those schools feel and would largely be ignoring students in small community colleges. To make your sample of participants representative, you would have to administer the survey to each type of college.

Wording Effects

Another important part of designing a valid survey is to word questions carefully. The way people respond to questions on surveys heavily depends on how a question is worded, which is referred to as wording effects. For instance, people feel much differently about hearing the phrase 'revenue enhancers' than 'taxes.' Revenue enhancers sounds relatively innocent, while nearly everyone groans upon the mention of taxes. Therefore, when you ask people if they are in favor of more revenue enhancers, they will most likely say yes, whereas if you ask people if they are in favor of higher taxes, they most surely will say no. Researchers are usually aware of the power of wording effects, and organizations with an agenda will word questions in such a manner that people will give the answers that the organization wants.

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