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Survey Research: The Good, the Bad and the Weird

Kate William

Last Updated:  

30 May 2024

10 min read

“We value your opinion and would love to hear from you.”

As far as email subject lines go, this is a pretty common one. Often, these emails contain survey research forms from a company you patronize. But have you thought about what happens behind the scenes? For instance, did you know that a surveyor can know the exact number of users who complete their polls?

That’s right! With the sheer number of online survey tools at our disposal, this is now just a piece of cake. And what’s more? Surveys have become so crucial today that almost every company adopts these practices!

Now, wouldn’t you agree that this warrants a closer look at all things surveys? Yes? Well, we think so too! And that, dear readers, is why we’ve put together this fun guide to the good, the bad and the weird of survey research.

So, if you’re all strapped in, let’s begin!

What Does Survey Research Mean?

Our first stop? Define surveys. And to answer this question, we’ve got a fun example!

Imagine you’re hosting a dinner party at your place. However, you realize that you’re unsure what your guests would like to eat. Indian? Chinese? Mexican? It’s indeed a head-scratcher. But that’s when it hits you that all you have to do is ask them! So, you rope in each of them and give them a few options to pick from. Then, once you receive all their responses, you tally their votes and make a choice. Simple!

Now, does that seem familiar to you at all? Yes? Well, great! Because you’ve just carried out a mini-survey! And when scaled to a larger audience, you get what most companies do with their polls.

And so, as the survey research definition rightly states, surveying is the process of gathering information from a specific set of people through questionnaires, opinion polls, or other such means. Then, with this information at hand, a company can answer the questions it has set for itself.

Survey Research And Its Types

Alright, now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s delve deeper. So, for our next stop, let’s look at the types of survey research!

1. Descriptive Research

Have you got questions on the how, the what, and the when of your products? If so, descriptive research is just what you need. Here, you would aim to understand what your buyers want and give it to them. And, for all that, you only need to conduct a survey! Sounds easy, right? But if you’re a little unsure of how this would work, perhaps some survey research examples can help.

So let’s consider a company, A, that wants to understand the preferred flavors for their all-new brand of potato chips. To do that, they set up a kiosk at a local supermarket and allow customers to test some of the new flavors. Then, they record the data on their customer’s ages, flavor profiles, and more that they can compare later. Finally, after analysis of the results, they can decide what flavor to launch and how.

2. Causal Research

With causal survey research, your goal would be to get to the bottom of various cause-and-effect relationships. And if you’ve got an investigative streak, you’ll certainly like this one! So, if you’re a brand that wants to know how its new logo would affect sales, this is right up your alley.

Now, go on, monitor those sales rates for your old and new logos, respectively. Then compare all the data you get, and you’ll know which logo resonates better!

3. Exploratory Research

And finally, there’s the backbone of all marketing strategies – the exploratory survey research! Ideally, it helps if you use these at the beginning of a research process. This way, you can get some much-needed insights and information on your markets before investing.

However, if you’re looking for a way to improve your products, you can use open-ended questions. So questions like, “How can we improve? We’d love to hear from you.” or “Is there something you’d like to share with us?” are all great examples.

What’s The Right Survey Research Method For You?

With that, you’ve now covered the various survey types that are at your disposal. But wait! How are you meant to deliver them? Hmm. That’s a thinker. Well, not anymore! Because below, we’ve got a list of survey research methods that you can use to get your data set ready.

1. Online Surveys

Of all survey research methods, online surveys are what’s currently trending. Why’s that, you ask? Well, we’ll tell you! For one, they are easy to deploy over the internet – through emails, websites, or social media pages – and can quickly reach many customers.

But that’s not the only reason they’re so popular! They also give your users ample time to take the survey. And some online survey tools will also let them save their answers and finish them later. This way, companies can get their data while also being considerate of their users. Explore more fantastic features of online surveys with SurveySparrow.

2. Paper Surveys

If you’re a fan of old-school, pen-and-paper survey research methods, this one is for you. Although they are not as common today, they still have a few benefits. For instance, if your goal is to carry out field research in a place with spotty internet connections, these are always good to go!

However, there’s also a flip side. Among all the survey methods used today, paper surveys are the most expensive ones. But that’s not all! It also needs a lot of time and money to get it right. So, before you deploy these, do weigh the pros and cons!

3. Phone Interviews

Do you prefer real-time chats? Yes? Well, you’re in luck because that’s what phone surveys are for! Here, not only do companies get to collect data from their customers, but they also get to build a personal rapport with them. In the grand scheme of things, this often translates into better customer retention and loyalty.

However, like a paper survey, telephonic survey research can also be quite time-consuming. And alas, if users fail to answer their phones, there’s not much you can do.

4. One-on-One Interviews

Do you fancy yourself a master of small talk? If so, you’re in for a treat with this one! Here, an interviewer would need to think on their feet and come up with questions that can elicit the best answers from a customer. However, unless you and your customers have a good 30 to 60 minutes to spare, this form of surveying may not be for you.

And now, it’s time to reveal the good, the bad, and the weird sides of survey research.

Survey Research: The Good

  1. They’re Affordable

Be it a questionnaire or an online poll; surveys are an affordable way of gathering crucial data. So, even if you hire an expert surveying company to do the work for you, you can rest assured that you will find a price plan that works for your budget. And if you design your questions? Well, then you’re in for a treat because online survey tools offer lots of options that you can play with! So, when it comes to surveys, your budget is rarely a big concern.

1. Practicality Is Its Middle Name

Imagine the sheer number of people who answer online survey research questions. Now think about the cost of carrying out such a massive operation! It’s overwhelming. However, with the help of surveys, you can target a specific audience, collect opinions, and carry out market research within a single platform! Now, if that’s not being practical, then what is?

2. Quick And Easy To Boot

Surveys, especially online surveys, are quick and easy to use. With a single click, they can reach thousands of users and record their responses in no time. But that’s not all! If you use an online survey tool, it’ll even analyze the data for you. And so, worrying about time constraints is now a thing of the past.

3. They Can Be Fun!

Gone are the days of boring questionnaires that suck the life out of you. Now, with just the right amount of gamification features, your surveys can be fun and helpful! So, go ahead, pepper in some fun features for your users, and watch the responses roll in.

4. You Can Design Them To Your Liking

If you’re a fan of originality, then you’ll love how flexible survey research can be! Of course, you can use ready-made templates for a survey, but they are also easy to adapt to your needs. So, don’t fancy a question on the template? Take it out and put it in one of your own! This way, you can ensure that your survey questions are tailor-made to your users.

Survey Research: The Bad

1. Dishonest Answers Can Wreck It

Sadly, no matter how well-thought-out your survey questions are, dishonest answers can still wreck it. For instance, if you require users to share an unflattering fact about themselves, they may not be honest with you. So, you may need to find a way to encourage users to provide good answers.

2. The Difficulty of Conveying Emotions

Unless it’s a one-on-one interview, survey research may struggle to understand the emotions of a responder. And more often than not, these can be crucial to an accurate analysis. So, if you think a personal approach would be a better choice, don’t hesitate to go for it!

3. The Difference in Understanding

We’ve all had to answer vague survey questions. For instance, if a question asks to ‘somewhat agree’ or ‘somewhat disagree’ to a question, it can be challenging for a responder to know what exactly that means. And very often, this can skew the conclusions drawn from the data.

4. Users May Not Respond

Without the required response rates, a survey may not be of much help. However, it is often hard to get users to take one. So what can you do to solve this? For starters, you can offer incentives to get more responders. You can also make your survey and questions more attractive with fun animations, humor, and interactive questions.

Let’s Look At Some Examples!

Phew! Now that was a lot of information to get. But wait, we’re not done yet! Because now, it’s time to look at some examples of good and bad surveys. So, let’s begin.

Example 1: The Leading Question

This right here is one of the most common examples of bad surveys. With a question like this, you may lead the user into replying the way you want rather than what they think. So, when you ask them something like this, you’re unlikely to get an honest answer.

Survey research - leading question

Example 2: The Ambiguous Question

Let’s take a question like this:

“How do you feel about your most recent purchase?”

Here, the question fails to quantify the data it collects and might be hard to analyze. Instead, it’d be much better to turn it into a yes or no question. So, most good surveys would frame it like this:

Yes/No question

And if not that, you can also put in a scale.

Opinion scale

In both these cases, you’ll now have more quantifiable data.

Example 3: Complex Questions

To avoid confusing your respondents, don’t use long and complex questions like this:

Survey research - complex question

Instead, it’s better to break these into a series of questions:

Multiiple choice

Rank order question

Some Weird Survey Factoids For The Win

Okay, okay. We’ve plied you enough with the good and bad things about surveys. Now, it’s time to unleash the madness! So, here are some of the most bizarre findings of survey research.

1. To Drink or Not To Drink?

Are you a responsible drinker? Or do you, like 30% of American youth, admit to underage drinking? That’s right! In a 2013 survey by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, alongside Boston University researchers, an alarmingly high number of individuals admitted to underage drinking (ages 13 – 20). And the most preferred brand? Bud Light! Now, that’s one popular beer.

2. Save Yourself From The Deadly HTML!

Do some commonly used tech terms scare the bejeezus out of you? If so, we assure you, you’re not alone! For example, in one study, 11% of responders have previously admitted to thinking that HTML stands for a sexually transmitted disease. In the same study, also found that 27% believed ‘gigabyte’ was an insect, 23% said ‘MP3’ is a bot from the Star Wars universe, and 18% thought ‘Blu-ray’ was a marine animal.

3. Weather Forecasting in the Age of Cloud Computing

Stormy weather, along with a warm cup of coffee and a good book, is a great experience. However, if you’re like the 51% of Americans surveyed here, you may disagree! According to Wakefield Research, their survey research in 2012 revealed that 51% of respondents believed overcast weather could affect their cloud computing abilities. And sadly, over 1000 of them still do not understand this modern tech.

4. Earn Your Way Through Weight Loss

Would you lose some weight to get a simple bonus of $20? No? Well, you may want to think again! Because as per the findings of a Mayo Clinic experiment, dieters were more likely to lose weight if they were offered some monetary rewards. So if you’re struggling to lose those last few pounds, maybe all you need is a better incentive!

5. The Most Eligible Insurance Agent? Oprah Winfrey!

Forget all about your rising insurance premiums for a second! This survey research, conducted by, found that 33% of voters believed Oprah Winfrey would make a great insurance agent. And ranking below her, at 31%, was none other than the former POTUS, Donald Trump! So if you think you’re unhappy with your insurance, you might need a new, famous agent.

Wrapping Up

There’s no denying that surveys are one of the most important research tools available to a company. And so, it’s best to believe that they’re here to stay. However, survey research is only as good as the responses they get. So, how do you make sure you get a high response rate?

Well, for one, you’d need to ask some great questions. So, put on your thinking caps and get to work on that right away! Next, you’ll need to work on making the survey more visually appealing. Here, you can go to town on animating it and making it as fun as possible. But fair warning! With the growing number of mobile users each year, don’t forget to include them in the fun features. Finally, when all that’s done, you can work on polishing your follow-up email skills.

And now, with all that information under your belt, you’re more than ready to create your surveys. So here’s wishing you some happy surveying!

Kate William

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow

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