When conducting a survey?

A survey may be your best choice when:

  • You need a quick and efficient way of getting information
  • You need to reach a large number of people
  • You need statistically valid information about a large number of people
  • The information you need isn't readily available through other means

Written surveys: Pros and Cons

Advantages of a written survey  Disadvantages of a written survey
  • Large numbers of people can give their input
  • Low cost
  • People can respond at their convenience
  • Avoids interviewer bias
  • Provides a written record
  • Easy to list or tabulate responses
  • Wide range of respondents
  • No training needed as with interviewing
  • Often has low return rate
  • Limited alternative expression of respondent's reaction
  • Depends on the selected sample
  • May not truly represent of the whole group
  • Respondent may skip sections (depending on the technology) 

If you have decided that what you need is a large-scale, formal survey, make sure you will have the resources and capacity to exploit the informaiton and then the results you get. Hiring someone to do it for you or working with local colleagues or a nearby university may be your best bet. If you're going to do it on your own, keep in mind that some people you present your report to may not give much credit to a survey you did on your own.