There are myriad ways to collect data; here’s when to use each method
Phone Surveys are useful when the information is needed quickly, there is complex skip patterns, participants need to be screened, when the topics covered in the questionnaire are not sensitive, and nonrespondents are not thought to differ from respondents. Once the questionnaire is finalized, data collection can be done rapidly. Time to implement: 3-4 weeks Cost: Moderate
Mail Surveys were the go-to method historically. This was the major form of formal communication but started to decline in popularity in the 1980’s in favor of phone based surveys. Mail surveys have recently see a surge is utility as address-based sampling becomes the standard for data collection. Mail surveys are useful for general population surveys, when the questionnaire is longer or complex, participants don’t need to be screened, and when the information is not needed as urgently. Time to implement: 3-5 months Cost: Moderate
On-site surveys are very popular if the topic is central to the location.They are great for customer service questions, satisfaction with the location, short questionnaires, and when you have access to trained data collection technicians. Time to implement: 2 months Cost: High
Internet Surveys are very popular due to the low cost of data collection. These can be tricky to get reliable data because internet usage is not uniform in the population and people are switching to mobile. They are great for situations where all email addresses are known and valid, the questionnaire is highly complex, sensitive information is sought, and when funds are limited. We will often run an internet survey parallel to a mail survey and request the respondents complete it online. This approach known as a web-push survey saves money for remailings, data entry, and verification. These savings are then passed on to the customer. Time to implement: 3-6 weeks Cost: Low
Focus Groups are excellent for research questions that require a lot of follow up questions and probing to understand. If many of your questions are concerning the ‘why’ behind behaviors or attitudes, this is the way to go. Focus groups are also great for situations when you know that you need more information, but don’t know what or how to ask the questions. Much of the time associated with this method is devoted to working with the customer to refine the content of the moderation guide. Frequently, we will conduct focus groups before a survey so we can understand with depth, but also get the generalizability that a survey provides. Time to implement: 3-4 weeks Cost: Moderate
Internet Panels are used when generalizability is not needed or when the topic needs longitudinal data. This method often gets a bad rap because it is often used incorrectly. Too often, this method is used to collect data on a small subset of a population and then generalized to the whole population. Because our clients often need to know about a population, we tend not to use this method. Time to implement: 1-5 months Cost: Low
If one of these methods interest you, please contact us to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of it. We are happy to just talk methodology with your or you can engage us to do the work for you.