Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Survey Method

A list of some of the strengths/disadvantages of using surveys.


  • Surveys are relatively inexpensive (especially self-administered surveys).
  • Surveys are useful in describing the characteristics of a large population. No other method of observation can provide this general capability.
  • They can be administered from remote locations using mail, email or telephone.
  • Consequently, very large samples are feasible, making the results statistically significant even when analyzing multiple variables.
  • Many questions can be asked about a given topic giving considerable flexibility to the analysis.
  • There is flexibilty at the creation phase in deciding how the questions will be administered: as face-to-face interviews, by telephone, as group administered written or oral survey, or by electonic means.
  • Standardized questions make measurement more precise by enforcing uniform definitions upon the participants.
  • Standardization ensures that similar data can be collected from groups then interpreted comparatively (between-group study).
  • Usually, high reliability is easy to obtain--by presenting all subjects with a standardized stimulus, observer subjectivity is greatly eliminated.


  • A methodology relying on standardization forces the researcher to develop questions general enough to be minimally appropriate for all respondents, possibly missing what is most appropriate to many respondents.
  • Surveys are inflexible in that they require the initial study design (the tool and administration of the tool) to remain unchanged throughout the data collection.
  • The researcher must ensure that a large number of the selected sample will reply.
  • It may be hard for participants to recall information or to tell the truth about a controversial question.
  • As opposed to direct observation, survey research (excluding some interview approaches) can seldom deal with "context."

Colorado State University, 2010. Advantages and Disadvantages of the Survey Method. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 21 November 2010].

1 comment:

  1. Your comment is very good when looking at the advantages and disadvantages of surveys in general. However I think it would have been beneficial to the blog if the advantages and disadvantages had been categorised into each kind of survey. This way it would have been easier, for example to find the telephone surveys advantages or disadvantages rather than having to scan through the whole blog to find specifically what you were after. On a positive note though, the information you have included in the blog is very detailed and there is nothing I can add to the strengths and weaknesses you have listed.