What are the Different Types of Survey Research?

Ken Black

A common way to break down types of survey research is by looking at the way the survey is conducted. Surveys may be administered on paper, orally, or electronically. The format depends on what the commissioner of the survey desires, and the price or time they are willing to spend. Some types of surveys may get a better response rate than others, and thus factor into the decision-making process.

Surveys are sometimes conducted orally.
Surveys are sometimes conducted orally.

Paper surveys are very popular, especially when conducting market research where the forms can be handed out instead of mailed. Often a paper survey will provide a list of multiple choice answers. In some cases, they may ask the respondent to fill out short answers to a number of questions as well. Multiple choice answers are often preferred because they are easier to process.

Some research surveys are sent via mail.
Some research surveys are sent via mail.

Comment cards at restaurants and the US Census are two common forms of paper surveys. Though the comment cards provide a spot for a specific complaint or observation, they are also valuable for collecting information about a particular restaurant and the system as a whole. This is where they provide true value to the company. The US Census survey is another well known paper survey, but it is only done once a decade. Paper surveys are cheap, but response rates are often very poor, especially if no incentive is offered to the respondents.

Survey researchers may conduct online sessions to collect consumer feedback.
Survey researchers may conduct online sessions to collect consumer feedback.

Electronic survey research is done through two major mediums, the Internet and the telephone. Telephone surveys are considered electronic if they do not actually involve any human-to-human contact. Rather, a voice system does the calling and interacts with the individual on the other end of the line. The respondent replies usually by pressing a touch tone number on the phone's dial pad.

Some organizations may conduct survey research via telephone.
Some organizations may conduct survey research via telephone.

Online survey research offers a printed survey in electronic form. The interface used is often a simple point-and-click approach, with which Internet users are already very familiar. Both online and telephone surveys can offer the flexibility to change the next question based on the respondent's answer. Utilizing this strategy offers the chance at more complete picture.

Paper surveys typically consist of questions with multiple choice answers.
Paper surveys typically consist of questions with multiple choice answers.

Oral survey research involves using a live person to administer questions to another person. This may be done in person or over the phone. The results may be recorded on a paper form or using an electronic device of some sort. Some benefits to oral survey research include the fact the surveyor has the ability to seek more respondents and can clarify questions, if necessary. Further, like online surveys, the questions can be fine tuned to the respondent based on the answers received.

Often, a combination of survey research methods are used. For example, a political party may use telephone, Internet, and face-to-face surveys in order to get a feel for the political climate. Using more than one method represents a chance to get a broad variety of people's opinions. While this may be effective, the time and cost of multiple methods may be prohibitive to some organizations.

Surveys may focus on couples rather than individuals.
Surveys may focus on couples rather than individuals.

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Discussion Comments


Sometimes web survey companies like Pinecone Research will target people in their database for a preliminary screening to see if they meet the minimal requirements to enter the study.

The respondents are asked some basic questions regarding their buying habits for particular product

based on the survey and if the respondent asks the questions in a favorable manner then they will be asked to complete the full-blown survey if not the questionnaire will end there.

Should they go on to complete the survey, they usually receive monetary compensation and in some cases a client might request that the respondents receive a sample of the upcoming product and offer their feedback on this new product on another survey.

This usually happens when the respondent really fits the target market and where a particular product and manufacturer feel that this type of customer would be both likely to buy the product and will offer the most important feedback of all. The respondents get to keep the free items and they also receive monetary compensation as well.


Subway11-Survey Monkey is a survey research company that normally asks respondents from 4 to 10 questions about recent experiences with a given company.

Sometimes a company will have a market research department that will actually conduct the surveys for them. For example, on a recent trip to Disney World I was asked a series of questions regarding my stay at the Walt Disney world hotels and the Disney theme parks.

The researcher was gathering information in order to improve the available rides and dining options for its customers. During the study they told me that they would be sending me a follow up survey in order to see how the remainder of my visit transpired.

The survey research analysis always includes demographic information such as age, income level, customer status which would pertain to whether a customer was a yearly or seasonal pass holder, or even a regular ticket holder.

They also want to understand the frequency in which I visit the parks and what type of travel arrangements I had to make to get there.


I've received those and I usually fill them out especially if the experience was very positive.

I also know that when conducting survey research the researcher has to consider the types of questions asked whether and whether they are closed ended or opened ending, cost of conducting the survey, whether the survey will be written or oral and the cost of implementing the survey with the findings.

The survey research design is really important because it will determine the outcome of the study. You really have to decide if you will be performing and interviewing technique or a questionnaire method.

If you're using a telephone technique for example, the questions should be either close ended and the survey should be brief because you have to report the subject answers after each interview.

If you are performing telephone interviews for example, it is best to be mindful of the subject time and keep the questions brief. Since the typical response rate is very low for surveys you will need a large enough sample in order to draw the appropriate conclusion. If you have too small of a sample your findings might not be accurate.


Research surveys are a cost effective method to gain data regarding the customer’s preferences and tastes.

Many companies will provide market research surveys in the back of the receipt of big box retailers at fast food restaurants.

They often provide an incentive of a discounted meal or a free item in order to receive timely feedback regarding the customer service experience.

They usually provide a deadline of a few days to a week in order to receive this information.

Sometimes a market research survey will be offered to the customer in the mail based on a recent automobile purchase. Car companies really want to understand what a typical experience is for their consumers and will often send a lengthy survey in order to compile the data so they can enhance their customer service experience.

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