Survey (human research)

In research of human subjects, a survey is a list of questions aimed at extracting specific data from a particular group of people. Surveys may be conducted by phone, mail, via the internet, and sometimes face-to-face on busy street corners or in malls. Surveys are used to increase knowledge in fields such as social research and demography.

Survey research is often used to assess thoughts, opinions, and feelings.[1] Surveys can be specific and limited, or they can have more global, widespread goals. Psychologists and sociologists often use surveys to analyze behavior, while it is also used to meet the more pragmatic needs of the media, such as, in evaluating political candidates, public health officials, professional organizations, and advertising and marketing directors. Survey research has also been employed in various medical and surgical fields to gather information about healthcare personnel’s practice patterns and professional attitudes toward various clinical problems and diseases. Healthcare professionals that may be enrolled in survey studies in include physicians,[2][3] nurses,[4] and physical therapists[5] among others. A survey consists of a predetermined set of questions that is given to a sample.[1] With a representative sample, that is, one that is representative of the larger population of interest, one can describe the attitudes of the population from which the sample was drawn. Further, one can compare the attitudes of different populations as well as look for changes in attitudes over time. A good sample selection is key as it allows one to generalize the findings from the sample to the population, which is the whole purpose of survey research.

Types

Census

A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a specific given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population.[6] The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common censuses include agriculture, business, and traffic censuses. The United Nations defines the essential features of population and housing censuses as "individual enumeration, universality within a defined territory, simultaneity and defined periodicity", and recommends that population censuses be taken at least every 10 years.

Other household surveys

Other surveys than the census may explore characteristics in households, such as fertility, family structure, and demographics.

Household surveys with at least 10,000 participants include:

Opinion poll

November 3, 1948: President Harry S. Truman, shortly after being elected as President, smiles as he holds up a copy of the Chicago Tribune issue predicting his electoral defeat. This image has become iconic of the consequences of bad polling data.

An opinion poll is a survey of public opinion from a particular sample. Opinion polls are usually designed to represent the opinions of a population by conducting a series of questions and then extrapolating generalities in ratio or within confidence intervals.

Healthcare surveys

Medical or health-related survey research is particularly concerned with uncovering knowledge-practice gaps. That is to say to reveal any inconsistencies between the established international recommended guidelines and the real time medical practice regarding a certain disease or clinical problem. In other words, some medical surveys aim at exploring the difference between the proper practice and the actual practice reported by the healthcare professionals.[3][13][14] Medical survey research has also been used to collect information from the patients,[15] caregivers[16] and even the public[17][18] on relevant health issues. In turn the information gathered from survey results can be used to upgrade the professional performance of healthcare personnel including physicians, develop the quality of healthcare delivered to patients,[2][3] mend existing deficiencies of the healthcare delivery system and professional health education.[19][20] Furthermore, the results of survey research can inform the public health domain and help conduct health awareness campaigns in vulnerable populations[15] and guide healthcare policy-makers. This is especially true when survey research deals with a wide spread disease that constitutes a nationwide or global health challenge.