A survey is ‘a systematic method for gathering information from (a sample of) entities for the purpose of constructing quantitative descriptors of the attributes of the large population of which the entities are members’ (Groves et al. 2004, p. 2). As an inherently interdisciplinary methodology, it is employed within various settings and across disciplines, including economics, education, public health, psychology, museum and gallery studies, and anthropology.

Data collection entails collecting empirical data from a relatively large sample of people from a pre-determined population (‘population of interest’). Survey research uses a variety of data collection methods, including questionnaires and interviews, either conducted via mail, internet, telephone, or face-to-face. Data collections occur in a standardized form by asking participants a series of related questions. Hence, instruments for data collection can be questionnaires or via interviews. The questions are most often, but not always, in a closed format in which a set of response alternatives is specified. The resulting numerical or quantitative data are then entered into a data file for statistical analysis (Czaja & Blair, 2005). Surveys are well suited to descriptive studies but can also be explorative or explanative. The units of analysis in surveys can be at micro-level (individuals, households, etc.,), meso-level (institutions, firms, occupations, regions, etc.,), or macro-level (societies, industries, etc.,). When using the survey method, it is imperative to consider and report on issues of reliability, generalisability, validity, and objectivity, and to account for any bias.

The most appropriate survey type for a study is determined by cost, completion rate, sample-population congruence, questionnaire length, and data processing issues (Johnson, Reynolds & Mycoff, 2020). Consequently, survey studies are often a team effort of many people with diverse skills.



  • Hunter, T. & Visram, S. (2019) Perceptions of breastfeeding advice and support delivered online by professionals and peers: a cross-sectional survey of UK mothers. The Lancent, 94(S56).
  • Moradi, T, Naghdi, S, Brown, H, Ghiasvand, H, Mobinizadeh, M. Decomposing inequality in financial protection situation in Iran after implementing the health reform plan: What does the evidence show based on national survey of households’ budget? Int J Health Plann Mgmt. 33, 652– 661.   
  • Steve Humble, Pauline Dixon & Ian Schagen (2018) Assessing intellectual potential in Tanzanian children in poor areas of Dar es Salaam, Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 25:4, 399-414, DOI: 10.1080/0969594X.2016.1194257
  • Rowland, C., Hanratty, B., Pilling, M., van den Berg, B., & Grande, G., (2017) The contributions of family care-givers at end of life: A national post-bereavement census survey of cancer carers’ hours of care and expenditures. Palliative Medicine, Vol. 31(4), 346 –355.
  • Hu, Z., Zhang, X., Cui, J. et al. A survey-based analysis of the public’s willingness for disaster relief in China. Nat Hazards (2021).


  • Czaja, R., & Blair, J. (2005). Designing surveys (2nd ed.). Pine Forge Press
  • Groves, R.M., Fowler, F.J., and Couper, M., (2009) Survey Methodology. Hoboken: Wiley.  
  • Johnson, J.B., Reynolds H.T., and Mycoff, J.D, (2020). Survey Research and Interviewing. In: J.B. Johnson, H.T. Reynolds and J.D. Mycoff, eds. Political Science Research Methods. London: Sage. Ch.10.
  • Wolf, C., Joye, D., Smith, T. W., & Fu, Y. (2016). The SAGE Handbook of survey Methodology. SAGE Publications Ltd
  • The University holds licenses for online survey software and statistical analysis (Qualtrix, Online Surveys, Ombea, Surveymonkey, SigmaPlot, etc.,). More information at