Pondering surveys

Over the weekend, I has a chance to take a survey for the first time since starting this class, and I found myself analyzing it along the way. The timing was great because I’m planning to do my peer review assignment on the podcasting article with a survey methodology. I used this experience as kind of a trial run at evaluating survey methods.

I took the survey  to help out a friend who is doing a project as part of an MBA program. I think the survey was designed to gather market research; the students’ project involves evaluating a new business idea. The survey was brief (10 questions) and collected demographic information as well as reactions to the business idea. Here are a few of my observations about the survey:

  • The survey design was descriptive – it gathered information about the respondents and their attitudes toward the business idea.
  • The sampling method was based on convenience, not probability. I received an invitation to take the survey in an email blast (presumably, sent to everyone my friend knew who might be coerced into taking it!) and the link was also posted on Facebook.
  • The multiple choice options for responses to some of the questions were very specific, to the point where I felt that anonymity could be compromised – especially because the researchers sought out people they know to take the survey rather than a random sample. For example, some of the age ranges only cover 4 years:

  • In contrast, the wording of the questions was at times vague and could have been made more specific, particularly considering the possible responses to some questions. For example, one of the question asked about marital status and specifically allowed for responses that corresponded with cohabitation, but the question regarding salary only asked to “indicate your income level” but did not specify whether this should individual or household income. As a student, I (individually) fall into the lowest income bracket on the survey, but that skews the results because my household income is actually in a higher bracket due to my spouse’s income. Considering that the proposed business venture is an after-hours spa, and the intended market would likely include mothers who do not work but still come from higher-income households, I think the survey would have benefited from more specific wording in this question.

All in all, this was an interesting experience at a convenient time! It definitely helped me start thinking about issues of sampling, reliability, and much more…

– Cynthia


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