How to get the Best Data by Optimizing Your Target Sample Group!
At its most base level, survey research is the art of gathering the right information from the correct people. One of the first tasks facing a researcher is selecting the appropriate sample group for their study. Not only will this choice have a dramatic effect on the meaning of the information collected, it will also have a large impact on the way the questionnaire should be designed. In this article, we will go over different types of sample groups and how to specialize a survey’s structure and questions to optimize the data collected from each.
General Public: Revealing Public Opinion and Behaviour
Surveying the general public is common practice for most businesses and organizations that have a wide-sweeping customer base. Usually, respondents are invited to complete online surveys through an invite link provided at the end of receipts or through an online invitation (email, or a company website). Typically, these surveys are created with the purpose of gaining feedback from the public on a company or its products, but can also be non-customer related in order to gain information on people’s behaviour, knowledge, or opinions on a certain issue.
A general public survey will give you a broad understanding of the public and is a great starting base for your research. Also the mass availability of the general public to answer your survey will lower the cost of incentives or purchasing responses.
However, the benefits of a general public survey come with a few disadvantages. First, most people will be disinterested in completing your survey, making the attention span of your respondents limited. Second, without including any requirements for your sample group (age, education, income level, etc.), it will be hard to segment your findings into more actionable insights.
• Incorporate Demographics –Demographic questions will provide more valuable research findings and allow for segmenting respondents into groups. Ask respondents to provide their age, gender or any other descriptive that you would like to measure your data against.
• Keep it Simple –Terminology and phrasing should be easy to understand and straightforward. These respondents are not experts, so ask questions that people with no experience in the field can give their opinion on.
• The Shorter the Better -Keep survey length under 15 minutes and create questions that require little effort or time on the respondents part.
Workplace: Keeping in Touch with All Levels of the Business
Gathering feedback from your employees and employers is integral to a healthy work environment. Some common workplace studies measure employee satisfaction, supervisor performance levels, and the efficiency of work processes. These surveys are almost always conducted through office emails, or a companywide online portal.
Workplace sample groups have a couple advantages over other groups. First, the ease of the researcher to access his/her respondents through the company’s database makes the collection of data inexpensive. Second, having high response rates or a census survey is a more realistic goal because of the company’s influence on its employees. The business environment also allows for a longer survey that requires more effort and time from the respondent.
However, there are also a few challenges. There is more potential for response bias, since employees may feel pressure to provide dishonest responses if they believe it could affect their relationships with their co-workers or employers in a negative way. Furthermore, it is difficult to create a survey that is geared towards all levels and positions in the workplace.
• Emphasize Confidentiality – Employees will provide more honest, and therefore more useful, responses if they believe their identity will be secure.
• Create Separate Surveys Based on Job Positions –This will provide more insightful data, as much of an employee’s work experiences will relate to their particular job.
• Ask More Open-Ended Questions –Open-ended questions will allow your employees to provide more insightful information. They have invested a lot of time into their workplace and will no doubt have strong opinions that are rich in value.
Special Groups: Gathering Information on a Particular Segment
Surveys that sample a special group select their respondents based on one or more feature they hold in common. This could include anything ranging from demographics, like age or gender, to shared experiences, like war veterans or physically disabled individuals. This type of survey sample is commonly used to gather information on an issue pertaining specifically to the special group, like the government studying retired citizens’ thoughts on their pension plans. It is also used for researching a special group’s perspective on a general subject. For example, a sport dominated by male viewers could specifically survey women to learn how they could cater better to a female audience.
These surveys are incredibly useful in gathering rich information from a specific segment of people. The one drawback is the potential difficulty of finding enough respondents for a study. The fewer the people that fit your sample’s description, the harder it will be to gather a large enough response base. This can lead the surveyor to higher research costs to meet their study’s needs.
• Conduct Preliminary Research –Learn about your special group before designing your survey. Many groups may think differently or be more sensitive about certain subjects, which can affect your results in ways you did not anticipate.
• Ask More Specific Questions –You have chosen to survey a particular segment of people for their unique perspective. Ask questions tailored to your sample that will give you richer data, instead of the broad questions you would use in a general public survey. For example, if you are surveying people who frequently exercise at the gym, you can include specific questions about the types of equipment they use, times they visit, clothes they wear, etc.
• Understand the Risks of Extra Costs –Based on the requirements on your sample, the price of gathering responses can rise. Investigate different ways to find respondents, like panels or incentives.
Field Experts: Gaining the Professional Advice You Need
Organizations will use surveys that sample only experts to gain knowledge and educated opinions in a certain field. Of course, the easiest example is toothpaste companies asking dentists to favour their brand, “9 out of 10 dentists agree that our toothpaste is the pastiest!” However, this type of surveying takes place for all specialists. In fact, it is one of the easiest ways to compile a list of highly valuable and informative advice on a particular issue.
Surveying field experts, although usually quite expensive, has the potential to provide incredible insight into a product or problem. These surveys tend to be qualitative in nature due to the lack of available experts and the questionnaire’s encouragement of in depth and complex answers. However, the lower sample size is acceptable because this survey relies on collecting the knowledge and expertise of professionals as opposed to quantifying the behaviours or beliefs of the general public.
• Familiarize Yourself With the Field –Understanding your survey sample’s field of expertise is the best way to ensure you are designing questions that will give you the best data.
• Use Almost Exclusively Open-Ended Questions –The reason you are surveying the experts is to take advantage of their substantial wealth of knowledge. Asking closed-ended question will not allow your respondents to provide insight beyond your question’s scope. Open-ended questions encourage respondents to give extensive and information rich answers.
• This Research is Exploratory –Remember that the data collected is not statistically significant if it is gathered through open-ended responses. Instead, look at your sample base as a board of advisors, providing you with their expertise on certain issues or topics.
Test Your New Knowledge!
So we learned that different types of survey sample groups have different strengths and weaknesses. However, by modifying a survey to suit the sample’s needs, we can ensure that we collect the most useful data. Whatever sample group you plan on using in your study, you are now prepared to create a specialized survey design!
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