Methodological Limitations of Survey Research1

The Methodological Limitations of Survey Research

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What is Survey Research?

Methodological Limitations of Survey Research2

Survey research is a method of data collection that involves gathering data from a predefined group of respondents, or sample, via surveys. Survey research is widely used by researchers and organizations to understand people, consumers, and societies better. Although research can be conducted using many different methods, survey research is considered one of the most effective and trustworthy methods used to do so. That being said, survey research does come with its own limitations. 

Within today’s article, we will examine the total survey error approach that outlines the different types of methodological limitations associated with survey research. 

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Types of Limitations of Survey Research

Methodological Limitations of Survey Research3

When investigating the weaknesses of survey research, we can categorize its limitations into three key groups; survey errors, survey constraints, and survey effects. 

  1. Survey Errors: Survey errors comprise the different mistakes that are made in the construction and implementation of the survey, as well as in the interpretation of its results. 
  2. Survey Constraints: Survey constraints refer to the errors in survey research that are impossible to eliminate, and therefore cannot be controlled by researchers in the way survey errors can. 
  3. Survey-Related Effects: These effects refer to the aspects of survey research that do not represent errors but still limit the accuracy of the conclusions that can be drawn from survey evidence.  

Survey Errors

Survey errors can be further categorized into the following three groups:

  • Respondent Selection Issues: These are the non-sampling errors caused by respondents providing incorrect answers to research questions, whether that be intentionally or unintentionally. Some common respondent selection issues include sampling error, coverage error, and nonresponse error at the unit level.
  • Response Accuracy Issues: These issues occur when respondents fail to respond to certain questions within the survey. Some common response accuracy issues include nonresponse error at the item level, measurement error due to respondents, and measurement error due to interviewers.
  • Survey Administration Issues: These are issues that are caused due to inadequate or improper survey administration. Some common survey administration issues include post-survey error, mode effects, and house effects.

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Explore all the survey question types possible on Voxco

Survey Constraints 

The next aspect of survey error that we will examine is survey constraints. These are the errors that are impossible to eliminate in surveys. As surveys can be expensive to conduct, minimizing survey error generally involves a tradeoff with costs. To reduce sampling error, more interviews can be taken, however, this will increase costs. To reduce coverage error, better sampling frames can be prepared, which will also result in increased costs. To reduce nonresponse error, callbacks can be increased, monetary incentives can be provided, and interviewer training can be improved; all measures that are associated with higher costs. 

Survey-Related Effects

Survey-related effects limit the precision of the conclusions that can be drawn from collected data. These are a few different survey-related effects:

  • Question-related: Although there is no single ‘correct’ way to word a question, different questions can yield different responses. The response option order, question structure, and whether or not it is an open or closed-ended question can all influence survey responses.
  • Mode Effects: The method used to administer the survey can also influence results. Self-administered surveys may yield significantly different results when compared to face-to-face surveys. Social desirability effects are a huge concern when dealing with particular modes such as face-to-face and telephone surveys.

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See Voxco survey software in action with a Free demo.

FAQs on the Limitations of Survey Research

Survey research refers to the systematic method of data collection from a sample of respondents via surveys.

The limitations of survey research can be categorized into three groups; survey constraints, survey errors, and survey-related effects.

Survey errors refer to the different mistakes that are made in the construction and implementation of the survey, as well as the interpretation of its results. Survey constraints, on the other hand, refer to the limitations of survey research that are impossible to eliminate in surveys. Survey-related effects refer to the aspects of survey research that limit the accuracy of the conclusions that can be drawn from survey evidence.

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Fast Insights
Best-in-class ROI

Voxco’s platform helps you gather omnichannel feedback, measure sentiment, uncover insights and act on them.

Join 500 + global clients across 40+ countries