The Science Behind The Survey

Surveys have been in use for research purposes for nearly ninety years. It was in the early 1930’s that Paul Lazarsfeld first introduced them for research purposes. The first research through a survey was about how Radio affects political opinion in the United States.

At first, and even now within some groups, the accuracy and validity of surveys was questionable, yet the science behind them solidifies them as an excellent way to collect data for research. Since the 1940s, surveys have been used by researchers for science, and by businesses to collect quantitative data.

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Using Scientific Ways To Build Good Surveys

The problem is that so many people see a survey as just a way to collect lots of data from a set of questions. But in reality, if done correctly, a survey goes beyond the collection of data in the responses, it tells a story and gives insights that you can turn into strategies for future business operations.

For a good survey, you have to use the best scientific processes to ensure that the research is conducted in a proper manner. There are certain processes that need to be completed in order for the surveys to have limited error or bias in them. This relates not just to the questions that are asked, but how the audience is selected and the data is collected.

If done correctly, you can be sure that your surveys are valuable sources of information that are valid and reliable.

Ensuring Population Selection Is Fair

One of the key concerns is how you select the population. When testing the general population it is impractical to select the entire population, despite the fact that it is the best way for you to get the most reliable data. You can’t force everyone to take your survey and the costs to distribute and analyze the results from that survey would be more than your company’s budget.

At the same time, you’ve got to get a large enough population, so you can get enough information to make the survey worthwhile, while selecting them in a pattern that ensures no bias. Therefore, you should be looking at ways you can randomly select participants for your survey.

You should also look at how many responses you need in the survey. The more you have, the better the accuracy, so if you can get between 250 and 500 responses that would be a good start. To achieve this, however, you might need to ask more people than that to ensure you have enough of a population sampled in your survey.

Ensuring The Validity Of Your Survey

You can be sure that your survey is valid if it answers four key questions.

The first question is known as ‘face validity’, it refers to whether or not someone looking at the survey would regard the questions as reasonable to answer. You have to ensure that the questions are related to the final purpose of the data. If there are questions in there that aren’t reasonable, then they need to be adjusted or removed.

The next question is to look at the ‘content validity’. This specifically refers to whether the questions are related to the broader issues that you’re investigating. If they aren’t directly related, then the questions need to be about subjects that are directly related to the main subject.

The next part you need to confirm is whether there is internal validity to your questions. This means do they imply an outcome that you’re looking for. If they are too biased, i.e. you’re asking leading questions, then you can suffer from significant bias in your survey. This should be avoided. All questions need to not give the audience an impression that you are looking for certain answers.

For example, you can’t say: Do you think boy’s shoes are overpriced?

Instead, you should ask: What do you think of the price of boy’s shoes?

The next validity test is the external validity. This is where you’re making sure that your questions are going to get the results from the general population.

Testing The Reliability Of Your Surveys

The next part of the science of surveys is ensuring that they are reliable. This means looking at your questions and checking that the same responses would be presented even if the wordings or structure of the questionnaire were changed.

This is hard to achieve. But if you can ensure that your questions are consistently written, then you can achieve this.


Surveys are sometimes not seen as being very scientific, however, that isn’t the case. With the right approach, a survey cannot just be scientific, but also a useful tool for collecting information from a population. Online survey building tools are some of the best ways you build surveys and distribute them, taking out many of the ways that surveys can be biased.

More about surveys:
10 Tricks For Using Surveys In Business Projects, click here
It’s Easy To Engage Your Target Market With Quizzes, click here
How To Make Your Marketing Research So Much Easier, click here
Surveys – It’s All About The Real Time Analysis, click here
How Entrepreneurs Benefit From Sending Out Surveys, click here

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