Thursday, 18 November 2010


Surveys: Obtaining Qualitative and Quantitative Data

What is a survey?

“Survey is a data collection tool used to gather information about individuals. Surveys are commonly used in psychology research to collect self-report data from study participants. A survey may focus on factual information about individuals, or it might aim to collect the opinions of the survey takers. ”

Surveys can be carried out in 2 ways:

Questionnaires: (group/ mail/ drop off)

Searchers give the questionnaires to the candidates who fill it out and then he collects and analyse it.

Interviews: (personal/ phone)

One on one, searcher asks questionnaires to the candidate himself.

Surveys like all other data collection have its advantages and disadvantages. The major noticeable advantages of surveys are time saver as surveys allow to collect a large amount of data in short time, they are less expensive than most of the other type of data collection and they allowed to collect data on wide range of things however surveys are not perfect they also have disadvantages for example accuracy, the response given may not reflect the reality therefore not accurate, and there is no way to know if the participants are reliable.

In the next two sections we will have a closer look on how surveys can use qualitative data (e.g. ask open-ended questions) or quantitative data (e.g. use forced-choice questions) measures however the type of survey to be carried out depends on the target population and the subject under investigation.

Surveys: Obtaining Quantitative Data:

This section is about survey data collection from a quantitative perspective. Quantitative data measurement must be objective, quantitative and statistically valid we can summarise by just saying that quantitative data is about numbers, objective hard data. There are many structures techniques of obtaining quantitative data such as online questionnaires, on-street or telephone interviews.

Researchers must be precise about their questionnaires as the quality of the data from quantitative research is directly dependent on that. The objectives of quantitative data are to quantify data and generalize results from a sample to the population of interest and also to measure the incidence of various views and opinions in a chosen sample.

The advantages of qualitative data, its methods usually provide quantifiable, reliable data and generalisable to the larger number of population of interest. They can also be represented visually in tables, graphs, charts or histograms.

However there are some weaknesses as well among other things closed question which can be answered with “yes or no”, a single word or a short phrase.

The quantitative data research can be used to determine the scale of satisfied customers for example by disturbing a questionnaire sample to customers (questionnaires are usually easy and quick to answer) and analyse the answers and scale them with 4 or 5 point scales from Very Satisfied, Satisfied, (Neither), Dissatisfied, Very Dissatisfied of course there is more behind that to really determine the satisfaction of customers.

Usually after a quantitative data research searchers often use qualitative research to explore further the findings from quantitative data which are “yes or no” or just a word.

Example of forced-choice (closed ended) questions:

Are you happy with your current ASDA local store?
1/Very satisfied


3/ Dissatisfied

4/Very dissatisfied

Do they give you the entire product that you need?



Surveys: Obtaining Qualitative Data:

This section is about collecting qualitative data in surveys. Qualitative data is non-statistical therefore it is usually difficult to graph or display in mathematical terms and contrary to quantitative data, qualitative data is much more subjective and has very different methods of collecting information such as open-ended questions, depth interviews, or structured focus groups discussions, qualitative data is exploratory and open-ended, more narrative, words.

Interviewers questions are generally vague, they ask the participants open-ended questions which request thinking and reflection thus they are able to express themselves and with their own words and idea, give their opinions, their feelings and perceptions on a particularly topic which might be sensible accordingly their answers as well. For that reason interviewers must be cautious about the ethical and confidentiality issues because open-ended questions involve personal and honest responses. The interviewers must keep the participants’ identity confidential and protected.

Qualitative data can be gained questioning customers, citizens or students (look questions below), or by immersion in a culture (ethnography) in this case the interviewers will probably have to deal with the ethical issues. In quantitative data, the interviewers/ researchers become the instrument of data collection that may have consequences and vary the results depending on who is conducting the research, as consequence the result may be considered as invalid therefore to valid as accurate, the interviewers or researchers must then compare his findings information with similar information from other surveys.

Examples of open-ended questions: (who/ what/ where/ when/ why/ how)

What did you fail on your course?

How do you keep focused on your course?

What are the good things and the less good things about your course?


Kendra Cherry. (2010). What Is a Survey?. Available: Last accessed 11/11/2010.

Ira Kerns. (2003). Quantitative & Qualitative Research. Available: Last accessed 11/11/2010.

Nedra Kline Weinreich. (2006). Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Methods in Social Marketing Research. Available: Last accessed 11/11/2010.

unknown. (2010). Qualitative research. Available: Last accessed 11/11/2010.


  1. Surveys
    Hi David, I think you have done a great job. However, in addition to your findings; data obtained through surveys may be affected by the “characteristics of the respondents, for example, memory; knowledge; experience; motivation; and personality” (Robson, 2002, p. 233). There could also be bias because respondents may respond in a way that shows good things about themselves.
    Surveys may also provide a “simple and straightforward approach to the study of attitudes, values, beliefs and motives” (Robson, 2002, p. 233).
    Robson, C. (2002). Real World Research (2nd Ed.). oxford: Blackwell Publishing