An Introduction To Surveys Computer Science Essay

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Survey - a process of gathering information from a group of people, specified for the purpose. This report discusses conventional survey process, including the methodology used for the purpose, various issues in this process and applications or uses of survey for various fields of sciences.

The Word Survey:

In dictionary, the word survey is verb (used with object), meaning:

To take a general or comprehensive view of, or appraise, as a situation, area of study etc

To view in detail, especially to inspect, examine, or appraise formally or officially in order to ascertain condition or value etc.

To conduct a survey of or among: to survey TV viewers. [1]

In simple words, a survey is a process of investigation, examination of something under study, in order to draw some conclusion about it.

What is Survey? - The "Survey" Defined:

Survey can be defined a number of ways:

"A method of gathering information from a sample of individuals - a sample is a fraction of the population being studied". [2]

"A survey is a non-experimental, descriptive research - where researchers sample a population. A population is any set of persons or objects that posses at least one common characteristic". [3]

"A survey is a method of collecting information from a sample of the population or sometimes organizations, we are interested in". [4]

"The most common type of quantitative, social science research, where the researcher selects a sample of respondents from a population and administers a standardized questionnaire to them". [5]

From all of the descriptions given, it is apparent that a survey is a social science activity where information is based on the opinions, thinking, behaviors of a group of people - called sample - that represent wider group/collection of people called population.

The information thus obtained is used for various purposes, as discussed below:

Purpose of Survey:

For a successful business, it is important to know what the client wants. Similarly various news and government agencies wants to know what the public thinks, large companies want to know about the attitude of their employees. [6]

Different websites want to know how to customize their site that better reflect the needs of their users. A survey is the best way for all such situations to get acquainted with.

A survey provides a speedy & economical means of determining facts about economics & people's knowledge, attitude, beliefs and behaviors. It provides an important source of basic scientific knowledge. [2]

Steps in Survey Project - Procedure Involved in conducting Survey:

For conducting survey using conventional methods, following steps are necessary to take. [2][6][7]

Step 01: Establish the goals of the project - What You Will Want to Know

The first step, which lays out the foundation of the process, is to define the purpose of the survey, in simple and in an unambiguous language. Also the goals should be as much specific as possible because the more specific the goals, the easier it will be to get usable answers. [2][6]

Step 02: Determine Your Sample - Whom You Will Ask

Two things are important to consider in this regard:

Target Population - means what kind of people is to be interviewed which totally depends on the objectives of the survey.

Sample Size - means how many people you need to interview which depends on:

Purpose of the survey

Statistical quality needed for survey findings &

Financial & professional resources available.

However, moderate sample size should be selected as it is sufficient statistically & operationally. [2][6]

Step 03: Choose Survey Methodology - How Will You Ask

A survey can be conducted in two ways:

Written Survey - Questionnaires

Interviews - Oral Surveys

Written Survey

A written survey consists of questionnaire that is a paper-and-pencil instrument that the respondent completes - consisting of three approaches:

Mail Survey

It is the self-reported data collection process which is directed towards a specific group e.g. subscribers to a specialized magazine or members of professional organization.

It is a recommended option when the desired sample consists of highly-educated and literal respondents having interest in the subject being surveyed. [9]

In this method, a questionnaire is designed with specific emphasis given to the type of questions as the interviewer is not present when the respondents fills out the questionnaire. The questionnaire is sent to respondents of the sample through the post with a return envelope so that the respondent can send it when filled with convenience.


Relative low in cost

Particularly effective in business

Questionnaire can have pictures, diagrams - something that is not possible on telephone.

Allows respondents to response at their leisure - when they are free and in mode to put answers.


Time consuming than other surveys - respondents may respond after several weeks and responses may be received later.

Planning the questionnaire is difficult because the respondent has to answer the questions in the absence of survey worker.

Lower educational & literacy levels causes responses to be little useful.

Drop-Down Survey/Household Drop-Off Survey

In this type of survey, a questionnaire is designed and then a meeting is scheduled with each respondent at his ease and his house or work area. At the day of meeting, the respondent is told about the importance of the survey and the questionnaire is handled over to him to fill it at his leisure - within a specified duration.

After the specified duration, the questionnaires are collected back from them & then further work is preceded. [5]


Respondents have a convenience by filling it at their leisure/convenience.

As respondents are aware of the importance of survey so it has a better response rate than mail surveys.


Time-consuming than mail survey as you have to meet the respondents twice and the time taken by them for filling the questionnaire between these two meetings.

Results in smaller sample size-because meeting so many people & in such a way is difficult & time consuming - so a smaller sample is selected.

Response rate is still slow. [5]

Group-Administered Questionnaire

Here a group from target population is given a briefing and at the end of meeting a questionnaire, they are given a questionnaire to fill or the group is questioned and everyone is free to answer, it is possible that some people don't know about answering a particular question and other may answer it - resulting in a completed questionnaire where every question gets answered.


High response rate because the survey is carried out to a sample of respondents.

Can serve a variety of specific purposes particularly when you want to survey a v3ery specific group of people. [5]


As used for specific group of respondents so it requires a small sample size and thus can't be used for surveys that benefit from large sample.

Another problem is of scheduling as it would be difficult to specify a time frame that is convenient for respondents of the group. [5]


An interview is a type of survey that is answered and completed based on the sayings of the respondent. [8]. Interviews are conducted in two ways:

Personal Interviews

Personal interview is an in-person, face-to-face survey process where the interviewer can also see the feelings, emotions, face impressions of the person being interviewed, and can take place anywhere, any time e.g. at home, shopping mall, street, before a cinema hall, theater, church or mosque, polling place, at a bus stop and so on.

At a particular time, either a single respondent or a group can be surveyed.


The interviewer can explain the meaning of a question if the respondent does not understand it.

Response rate is high as you can interview as many respondents as you need for desired sample size, under available budget.


Costly as it requires time to collect data for complete survey.

Bias from the interviewer or interviewee - bias means to unfairly influence somebody's opinions or decision.

As the interviewer fills the questionnaire so respondent can't see types of questions asked. [5]

The respondents are reluctant in disclosing the information about their sources of income due to fear from tax enforcing agencies.

If the respondent is not present at home, the interviewer has to visit the site again. [10]

Attitude of respondent based on his mode also affects the results.

Telephone Interviews

A type of interview that can be conducted through telephone or mobile phone from a sample having telephone or cell phone e.g. in USA it is the most popular interviewing method as 96% of homes have telephone service. [6]

In this method, the interviewee of the sample are called for interview, whose numbers are usually taken from telephone directory or obtained through random digit dialing, who is told about the purpose of interview and its importance, but the effectiveness depends upon the presence of the household head and his mode, as a person setting for dinner will not be in the mode of lengthy discussions of interview and thus the results will be affected.


People can be contacted even much faster than personal interview, as the interviewer has not to go to interviewees' site again and again which may be distant and time consuming.

The answers can be more complete than mail surveys, as open ended questions are asked.[6]


The respondent may not be present at home when called for interview.

Products can't be shown on phone. [6]

Cost is high as it takes time to complete the survey.

May introduce bias from either the interviewer or the interviewee.

The respondent does not have a chance to look at the questionnaire - difficult to answer multiple choice type questions, as all choices can't be seen at the same time.

The respondent while performing some other work e.g. doing office work or dinner will not be in mode to take longer discussion on questions - attitude towards the interview may not be good. [5]

Step 04: Create Your Questionnaire - What Will You Ask [2] [6]

Planning the questionnaire is one of the most important and critical stages in survey, as the results are totally dependent on the type, style, & format of questions you ask.

The manner in which a question is asked can greatly affect the results of the survey.

Surveys can be classified by the content of the survey i.e. what you need to know e.g.

Opinions & attitudes of people e.g. pre-election survey, or

Factual characteristics or behaviors e.g. people's health issues or


Whatever the purpose of your survey may be, following guidelines may be followed:

Start with an introduction or welcome message & try to encourage people to answer & complete your questionnaire.

Ask clear-cut, and unambiguous questions e.g. use KISS (Keep It Simple & Short) i.e. ask yourself what information will come through this question & whether it will be useful, if it is then include it, otherwise discard it.

Questions may be short/brief or long - but keep short and easy to answer questions at the beginning.

Decide your mode of data collection i.e. Survey Methodology & then create your questionnaire accordingly.

Decide your question types which may be:

Close Ended, such as

Multiple Choice questions e.g.

Q: What Source Do you use for News?

TV News Channels

News on the Web/Internet


News Paper

Numerical End-Up questions e.g.

Q: How many hours you are online ________.

Rating Scale Questions e.g.

Q: How would you rate our teaching method?





Agreement Scales e.g.

How much do you agree with each of the following statements?

Strongly Agree Disagree Strongly

Agree Disagree

Presentation is important for students.

Students should avoid indulgence in politics.

Yes/No Questions e.g.

Q: C++ is a powerful programming language. (Yes /No).

Open Ended e.g.

Q: How the learning capability of the student can be improved?




Other things such as order of questions, their appearance & physical size & format - must also be considered.

After creation - questionnaire should be protested; however it is a big issue - so we consider it as a Step in survey process.

Step 05: Pretest Your Questionnaire - Test What You Are Going to Ask

Pre-testing is a critical process to know about the problems in the questionnaire, and should not be omitted as it is central to planning a good & error-free questionnaire. [2]

We test a questionnaire with a small number of interviewee which helps in unrevealing unanticipated problems with question wording & instructions to skip questions & to see whether respondent understands our questions and give useful answers. [6]

Note that pretests should be conducted systematically - we must also involve experts who can pinpoint our mistakes. If we have different type of respondents, test it with every type. If we have several languages we have to test it in each language. [11]

Advantages of Pre-testing:

As mentioned, it is critical process in determining questionnaire problems - it has some more plus points:

We come to know the type of response that we may ultimately get from the respondent.

Unnecessary and inappropriate questions can be identified.

Description to some concept may need to change.

We can find out ways in which greater cooperation of the respondents may be achieved.[11]

Step 06: Conduct Interview/Questionnaire - Ask Questions

Now is the process of getting questions answered. For this purpose the selected survey methodology on the basis of which questionnaire was designed, is followed, and data is collected, until the desired sample size is achieved.

Step 07: Analyze the Data - Produce Reports

When sufficient sample size of responses, is achieved then the data collected is analyzed through various statistical and mathematical way, and the basis of this analysis, final report about the survey is produced.

Some Issues in Survey Process:

Who Works On Surveys? Or Who Conducts Surveys? [6]

The Survey Worker is the interviewer who calls on the telephone, appears at doors, stops people at the mall or shop, or sends mail to people. Note that for this purpose the person does not require any experience but some organizations train their workers especially for surveys conducted through telephone. E.g. in "Benazir Income Support Program's Ghar Ghar Survey", most of the workers are matriculate or FA qualified, & they are given some initial training and fill out the questionnaire through face-to-face interview by visiting every house in the community.

In-house employees also have importance in this respect who works on almost every phase of survey process.

In some organizations surveys are conducted under the supervision of experts who usually have experience of many years, or have degrees in sociology, psychology.

Confidentiality, Integrity and Quality of Questionnaire [2]

The information concerned with the privacy of the respondent provided by him must be kept confidential, for which following things must be kept in mind:

Using only number codes to link the respondent to a questionnaire and storing the name-to-code linkage information separately form the questionnaire.

Name, Address and contact number of the survey respondents must not be exposed to clients as well outside the organization.

Personal information should be omitted from computer files used for analysis.

Destroying questionnaire and other identifying information.

Statistical tabulations should be presented broad enough so that respondents can't be singled out.

Integrity can be ensured by considering whether questions asked are fair to ask or not.

Quality is largely determined by purpose and the way a survey is conducted.

Applications/Uses of Survey: [2] [12]

Surveys have a wide range of applications, a few are discussed below:

TV networks like Geo News, AAJ News usually conduct survey polls to know about public opinions about a specific situation or political issue or to know how many people are watching their programs and what they want to see.

Different Web Sites and Magazines can improve their services through surveys from their consumers.

Different Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) conduct various surveys to know about the day-to-day life status of in various communities of the world.

Government agencies perform surveys for various purposes e.g. "Benazir Income Support Program - Ghar Ghar Survey" is meant to know the financial status of their public, so that to give relief to deserving ones and to apply taxes to those on which tax is applicable.

Surveys are conducted by researchers as well as students in various fields of study such as Sociology, Health Sciences, Political Science, Psychology, Economy and Economics etc.

Through surveys we can find out how people interact with technology e.g. students under 12 & under how use Web Technology.