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What Makes Online Surveys The Best Of Field Research Methods

Mathew Maniyamkott

10 September 2021

9 min read

Lugging around a stack of papers (read questionnaires), passing it to a bunch of people to fill them up, collecting the feedback, copying the results onto an excel sheet and tabulating them is what you might think of when you hear the term ‘field research’, isn’t it?

But it does not always have to be like this. Online survey tools change the entire equation and make the first statement go hide in shame by doing all of the above at one go without much of an effort.

While the most popular method of getting feedback from customers is to send surveys to your email subscribers using a survey tool, the only change that occurs when you are onsite is that not always is your target market blessed with the internet or a mobile device, but you can still use a handheld-device to collect feedback in such a scenario.

Paper forms were never cool and will never be, thanks to a million disadvantages they come with.

Online survey tools like SurveySparrow completely eliminate the plethora of problems associated with field data collection thanks to its various features, we shall discuss the same in the rest of the article.  

Paper forms were never cool and will never be, thanks to a million disadvantages it comes with. 

All the popular field research methods!

Using the right kind of data collection technique can make or break the effectiveness of your field research exercise. We are going to analyze the disadvantages of these data collection techniques vis-à-vis an online survey tool. The most popular field research methods are as follows:

  • Observation
  • Questionnaires
  • Interviews
  • Focus Group Discussion


Observation is a simple way to collect data and it does not require any extra skill to make it happen.

It does not require a lot of interpretation or analytical skills because the data collected would be something as simple as the number of people who visited a mall or counting the number of two-wheelers that skipped the toll on a highway.

Paper Questionnaires

We have spoken quite a bit about the paper questionnaire in the entire article and how using a survey tool is a much better option.

Remember that questionnaires can be submitted via phone, email or online and without a doubt, they are easily some of the most popular field research methods available.

“In God, we trust. All others must bring data.” W. Edwards Deming


Conducting interviews to collect data for your field research is one of the best methods to get detailed responses which might not necessarily be possible when you use the previous two methods.

When you are with the interviewee, you are in a position to gain in-depth knowledge of the subject.

Focus Group sessions

Focus Group discussions or Focus Group sessions bring a chosen group of people together for a discussion where they are grouped together and asked questions.

It helps by unearthing a lot of information and builds different perspectives based on the opinion of the people involved.

So what are the disadvantages of these field research methods against using an online survey tool? Here they go:

Disadvantages of Observation technique

  • There is a lot of dependency on the observer as mistakes committed might reflect entirely on the results that are collected from this.
  • If the observant have biases, it will reflect on the end result
  • The people hired to observe might have to undergo extensive training to know what to observe
  • Since there is no direct interaction with the things that are being observed, there are chances the interpretation might not be entirely correct

Disadvantages of Questionnaire technique

  • It can be tedious for the respondent to carry around lots of paper if you plan to have a long set of questions
  • When you use questionnaires, the respondents usually expect multiple choice questions because they are easy to complete. Therefore, it becomes difficult to ask questions where you might expect them to express their opinions in a detailed manner.

Disadvantages of Interview technique

  • Taking interviews is a time-consuming process and incurs a lot of costs too. An online survey tool reduces this problem by helping to add audio and video answers to a survey.
  • Interviewers need to be well-trained to extract the right answers from the interviewees
  • Apart from expertise in the subject matter, interviewers should also have good communication skills

Disadvantages of Focus Group Discussions

  • Finding the right people to be a part of the focus group is itself a task
  • It is expensive to conduct FGDs
  • The persuasive members can reduce the diversity in the group’s discussions.

Why survey tools should be your go-to field research method!

Using the right kind of data collection technique can make or break the effectiveness of your feedback exercise. 

Using an online survey tool is convenient for all parties involved, especially since these days some companies find the need to create extremely complex forms based on their requirements.

Making respondents fill in complex answers on a questionnaire is going to be a difficult task to do while the same can sound and feel easy on an online survey tool.

1. Skip Logic makes life easier

Most online survey tools have this feature called skip logic which lets the user skip questions based on their previous answers. Imagine being able to do that on a piece of paper.

On a fantasy land, maybe! This feature saves a lot of time for the respondent while allowing them to spend more time on the questionnaire thus helping you get a better-articulated response than you would if you were to employ the services of a paper questionnaire.

The effectiveness of a field research method is increased by using the skip logic feature.

2. Ability to capture audio/video is such a bliss

The deeper the kind of data you have in your field research method, the higher is the accuracy of the exercise. When you use paper questionnaires to fulfil your research, you cannot take audio or videos to increase the veracity and usefulness of your research. This can be a huge setback when it comes to complex surveys that require different forms of data to be collected.

3. Ability to collect data offline is a godsend!

While many might argue that using an online survey tool for field research purposes might not be a valid solution, they couldn’t be more wrong.

Most online survey tools that have the capability to do field research surveys comes with the ability to take surveys offline. The data from the survey can be synced when there is Internet or can be stored in the cloud.   

 “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Aldous Huxley

4. User Management is what you’ve always wanted

An online survey tool like the one that SurveySparrow has helps you create and manage multiple users, it gives you the ability to assign roles and you can also manipulate how much can each user view for different projects.

These features make it easy to complete the feedback process.

5. Did someone say segmentation ability?

Using online survey tools as your field research method also helps you with segmentation. Segmentation is one of the most essential initial steps when you do marketing for your business.

Your customers have different characteristics and based upon their varying traits, they are grouped into different segments making it easy to market a particular product or service for them.

Don’t even think about being able to segment your customers when you are handing out paper questionnaires.

Well, I guess you can do it, but imagine sifting through tons of papers and spending thousands of man-hours to achieve this. With just a few manipulations, an online survey tool like that of Surveysparrow does this with ease.

6. Real-time reports, tracking, and analytics. Yess!

Easily one of the best things about using online survey tools for doing your field research is that you can get instant updates (if you are connected to the Internet of course) on the feedback from your customers.

An attractive feature like this means that your business can make immediate decisions based on the feedback which will affect the bottom line immediately.

The feedback collected can be represented in visually appealing formats like graphs, charts and so on.

7. And to top it all, integration with 3rd party tools.

Another aspect of using online survey tools which makes paper questionnaires feel like those from the era of T-Rex is because you can use 3rd party tools to integrate the entire process which saves a ridiculous amount of time for everyone involved.

These are 3 alternatives for collecting data using paper:

Using online questionnaires

Since almost everyone has an email ID, you can gather information from people using a simple email that you link to a survey.

Most of these online survey tools are of low cost, easy to use and highly effective. There are a lot of customization options available when you use an online survey tool thus increasing the effectiveness of the survey.

“What gets measured, gets managed.” Peter Drucker

Data collection via mobile apps

Another method that can be highly effective is implementing mobile data collection with the help of smartphone apps. It helps collect legitimate data and has highly customizable forms.

These data collection apps can be integrated with 3rd party apps using which one can analyze the data and use them to make highly informed business decisions.

Using mobile data collection apps on sites is easy and simple because you don’t need an Internet connection to collect data.

Data collection through SMS

A cell phone is one of the most ubiquitous instruments that most human beings in the world carry on their person. Therefore, you can also collect feedback from your customers by sending the surveys as SMSes.

Many features like skip logic can be implemented on this. These solutions are a big upgrade when it comes to collecting data when compared with using paper questionnaires.

Here is how you can create the perfect field research survey using online survey tools:

a. Have a clear objective

Before you prepare questions for the field research survey, you need to understand the reason behind having the survey in the first place.

The goals that you want to achieve with the help of this field research survey should be clear in your mind, otherwise, it is going to be really difficult to make it a success. Begin the survey preparation with the end in mind.

b. Prepare the questions

The next step is to prepare the right questions, based on the goals of the survey. It is highly advised to collect answers from them using which we can get opportunities to segment them even more.

Try to keep the number of questions as low as possible because the higher the number, the lesser will be the involvement of the respondent as they will get tired of it. Only the most relevant questions should have a place in your survey.

c. Find the right online survey tool

Half the job is done when you have found the right tool to conduct the field research survey. There are a lot of features that are available which has the capabilities of making the entire process smooth by not only reducing the time taken to complete the survey but also in getting you better results.

Using an online survey tool like Survey Sparrow reduces the expenses of hiring people to conduct the field research survey while also reducing the cost of paper and saving time in collecting the data and analyzing it.

d. Plan for the steps after the survey

The most important part of the entire process is this: analyzing the data that you have received and use them to take business decisions.

The data collected should be put into visually attractive formats such as graphs, pie charts, tables and more so that you can glean information from them.

Involve all stakeholders so that they understand what the customer wants to say. Invite opinions from all of them to see the areas that can be made better based on the feedback.


Using an online survey tool for your field research survey can make a lot of difference to your end result.

Most of these online survey tools come with an attractive dashboard too, that helps the business view the results in visually appealing formats that increase the effectiveness of the data collection process.

This way, using your favorite online survey tools helps you to make a business decision by enabling you to understand the various data points gathered in the form of feedback as highly processed information.

There are a lot of aspects that need to happen in tandem with a field data collection process to be successful.

If you are doing this without the help of an online survey tool like of SurveySparrow then you are in for a tough ride because each feature that an online tool brings in will take hundreds of man-hours and a huge budget to achieve it with the same precision.

Finding the right online survey tool that fulfils all your survey demands is the best thing that can happen to your business and you can safely assume that it will have the kind of ROI that was not present or expected previously.

With an online survey tool for your field research method, it is not only easy to collect data in the most convenient way, it even gives you the data that you received in the form of attractive visuals that can help make business decisions.

Mathew Maniyamkott

Guest Blogger at SurveySparrow

Regular contributor to various magazines. Passionate about entrepreneurship, startups, marketing, and productivity.

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