Role of Surveys:
A survey aims to obtain standardised, quantifiable information from (or sometimes about) a defined group of people, known as a "population". A census is an example of a survey, but it is unusual because it is administered to the entire population of the country - most surveys obtain information from a representative sample of people only (as, for example, in political opinion polls).
Surveys may be:
¨ descriptive - asking questions such as what, when, where and how many; or
¨ analytical - asking why.
You will find that many surveys in the social sciences ask both types of question. The techniques for analysing responses to descriptive and to analytical questions differ, and we will explore these in detail later in the section.
The function of a survey is to test a theory by comparing it with empirical data. As with a case study, designing a survey starts by developing a conceptual framework - based on a literature review - and preparing a set of research questions to be investigated. These questions, or hypotheses, are then operationalised into variables which can be measured. Data is obtained through a survey and then analysed, to produce information which can be tested against the hypotheses.
If you are planning to use a survey in your dissertation, you must design it so that your objectives can be met within the time and resources available. You will, therefore, need to consider the topics on which you wish to collect data, the population from which the data is to be collected, the method of data collection and the degree of accuracy which is required.