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Advantages and Disadvantages of Surveys

In this post, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of surveys as methods of data gathering for market research. This post will discuss the main strengths that makes researchers choose surveys over other data gathering tools and also the weaknesses or shortcomings of surveys.

Researchers prefer surveys as methods of data gathering due to its various strengths and advantages compared to the other methods. However, there are also some weaknesses that the researchers must consider first before using surveys for gathering data. Now a days, surveys have become more common across various industry sectors for several purposes including customer research and to learn about market potential of new products. Businesses also use surveys to measure customer satisfaction. While surveys have become common across various industry sectors and are commonly used in many scenarios, what factors make them more suitable for data gathering?

We will learn about the strengths and drawbacks of surveys in this post.

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  • Higher representativeness of data:  Compared to most other methods of gathering data, surveys provide data that represents the exact attributes of the larger population. Due to the higher representativeness of data, most researchers find surveys more suitable for collecting data. The number of people taking the survey is generally huge and therefore, the data collected is more representative of the characteristics of the general population being studied.
  • Inexpensive to administer:  Surveys are comparatively a lot cheaper to administer when compared to the other data collection methods.  Apart from the cost of creating, printing, and distributing questionnaires, there are no major costs involved in the administration of surveys. One can conduct a survey of a large population without incurring any major costs. Compared to surveys, most other data collection methods are generally costly including interviews and other methods.
  • Convenient for gathering data: Surveys are also a lot more convenient to conduct compared to the other data collection methods. There are many sample questionnaires available already that a researcher can use to create his own. One can email a questionnaire to thousands of participants without any difficulty. It is neither costly and nor time consuming. People can answer anonymously and at their own convenience. Online surveys have become common across the industry and companies collect data from various regions globally using online surveys.
  • Easy to compare and analyze: The data collected using surveys is also generally easier to compare and analyze.
  • Offers more precise results: Surveys are capable of providing more precise results because they are carefully scrutinized and standardized. There is more precision in terms of measuring the collected data.
  • Little or no bias: The researcher’s own bias is generally eliminated in the case of surveys. They provide all the participants with standardized stimulus. It is also why they are more suited for scientific research.

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  • Inflexible design: Surveys once designed cannot be changed until the process of data collection has been completed. While on the one hand, this inflexibility can be understood as a shortcoming, on the other, it is also a strength since it also ensures fairness and precision.
  • Effect of wording on responses: Sometimes, the wording of the questions may not be suitable for all the participants and that can affect client’s responses in various unexpected ways. These questions have to be standardized before the survey is conducted. Researchers create general questions that can accommodate the entire population. However, not all the participants may find them suitable. For example, surveys involving variables dealing with emotions may face this difficulty.
  • Not suitable for controversial issues: When collecting data on controversial issues, surveys may not be the most suitable method for data collection. All the participants might not feel convenient answering questions related to controversial issues. Some participants may find it difficult to answer such questions and recalling the information required to answer them.
  • Impersonal: Surveys can be difficult to personalize compared to interviews or other data collection methods.
  • Need for a sampling expert: Sometimes, the researcher may need to hire a sampling expert to conduct the survey reliably.
  • Usually insufficient to catch the full story: In many cases, surveys alone are not able to catch the full story and the researcher might need to use other methods also in combination with surveys to complete the research.

A few last words:

Surveys have become one of the most preferred methods of data gathering for researchers and marketers industrywide due to their several strengths. Even if they have some shortcomings, the advantages surveys offer in terms of time and money, outweigh most of the cons. They are also considered suitable for scientific research because of the little or no bias involved in the outcome. Surveys are comparatively inexpensive and can be administered a vast population without spending much. Researchers do not need to hire a very large team to conduct surveys and mostly it is just a few people who are able to carry out a survey satisfactorily. However, sometimes, the researcher might need to hire a sampling expert to carry out the sampling part satisfactorily. It is generally the case when the research problem is complex and the researcher needs a highly targeted sample.

The other benefits of surveys include the ease of comparing and analyzing data and the higher representativeness of the data obtained using surveys. In some case, however, the researcher might not find surveys highly suitable or sufficient. For example, when working on a controversial issue involving personal emotions, it might be difficult to obtain all the required data and information from the participants using surveys. Participants might not feel highly convenient answering questions related to controversial issues. Despite that, surveys are highly suitable for collecting data in a large range of scenarios including marketing, product development, customer service and in several other areas. These surveys can also be used in combination with other data collection methods and tools when they are not sufficient for that particular scenario. Now a days, surveys have become common and there are a large number of tools available online including Google Forms that can make researchers’ task easier.

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