survey methoda social science research technique using QUESTIONNAIRES and their analysis using various QUANTITATIVE and statistical techniques (see also SOCIAL SURVEY). In sociology the survey method is used for two main reasons:
- to describe a population and examine its principal characteristics, e.g. age, sex occupation, attitudes, etc.; and
- to test HYPOTHESES and examine the relationship between VARIABLES.
The main problems with the survey method include:
- the technique is non-experimental, i.e. the researcher cannot usually control the conditions under which the research is conducted;
- researchers have to rely upon what RESPONDENTS tell them unless they are able to verify their findings with direct observations;
- the technique is atomistic, i.e. it examines individuals rather than whole communities.
Nevertheless, the survey method does have much to recommend it. It provides a cheap and relatively easy way to obtain a considerable amount of simply quantifiable data, which can be used to test and verify sociological hypotheses and identify further areas of research.