What is a Survey? A Comprehensive Overview


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In today’s age, where primary data is critical, we need to know how to study the target audience and gather relevant and reliable data directly from them. This brings us to our question at hand – what is a survey? – which we will explore in this blog and provide a comprehensive guide to uncover its characteristics.

What is a survey?

Survey research is the most common and widely used tool for quantitative research. Surveys are used to gather data by asking relevant questions to the respondents who are thought to have the relevant information we are seeking to acquire. 

Generally, a formal list of questionnaires is prepared, which is circulated to the respondents, and they can self-report their thoughts. Researchers use a non-disguised approach so that the participants of the survey know exactly what they are answering. In general, respondents are asked questions regarding their demographic details and the opinion that the researcher is interested in studying. 

Small and big organizations conduct surveys because they intend to understand the opinions of their customers about their products and services. Surveys are important because they give organizations an opportunity to ask multiple survey questions, collect data from a large number of customers and analyze the numerical results generated from collected data.

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What are the types of surveys?

We can categorize survey types based on how we administer it – online, telephone, and offline. Let’s briefly look into each of these categories. 

Online surveys:

Online surveys include a set of structured questions that respondents complete through the Internet. This is generally done by filling out a form. Online surveys are popular because they are less time-consuming and they are also cost-effective compared to traditional paper-and-pencil surveys.  

You can share an online survey via email, SMS link, social media, or website pop-ups. Additionally, the surveys allow respondents to take their time and complete it whenever they want and from whichever device. 

Voxco offers a robust online survey tool with a user-friendly platform and advanced functionality that empowers you to design interactive surveys without compromising the ease of use. 

Telephone surveys: 

With technological evolution, phone surveys are not the same, where an agent dials a number manually and waits for it to connect to a live human. CATI software, along with IVR and dialers, have made telephone surveys seamless, efficient, and effective than before.  

With advanced phone survey software, like Voxco’s, you can automate dialing a pre-determined list of numbers. Moreover, your agents are connected to live humans, and any unavailable or disconnected numbers are automatically removed or set aside. 

Offline surveys: 

Hearing about offline surveys we usually think of pen-paper questionnaires. However, with tools like Voxco’s mobile offline, you can leverage the efficiency of technology and effectiveness of personally approaching respondents. 

With the help of offline survey software, you can gather data in a mobile device in the absence of the internet while engaging with your target audience in the old fashion, face-to-face interview approach.

Read how Voxco helped Modus Research increase research efficiency with Voxco Online, CATI, IVR, and panel system.

Steps to design a survey

We have highlighted the following recommendations to consider when you are designing a survey:

1. Define the objective of developing a survey:

Your survey will have no meaning if it lacks aim. The survey research plan must be organized in the form of achievable milestones. Researchers should also plan out appropriate distribution methods for the samples collected and store them in their respective databases.

2. Create questions relevant to the purpose:

The objective of the study will also decide the number of questions asked in a survey research. However, a recommended practice is to avoid asking redundant or repetitive questions and only use questions that will add value to the end result of the research. 

3. Make sure to use simple language: 

A survey should include questions that are framed in simple language. If a survey has difficult or complex questions, it may be difficult for respondents to understand and they are more likely to drop out.

4. Determine the type of questions:

Survey questions can include close-ended or open-ended questions. An effective practice is to use the questions that will yield the most insightful results. The questions should also be easier for the respondents to understand and answer. Net Promoter Score® (NPS® ) questions usually include the use of close-ended or multiple-choice questions to gather the most information in a short period of time.

5. Use rating scales to increase engagement:

It is also useful to use a consistent scale throughout the questionnaire if you are using a rating scale. Using scales that range from 0 to 5 in one question and a scale of 0 to 3 in another may be confusing for the respondents. 

6. Implement survey logic: 

Your survey should also have logic when you are conducting a study. If the logic or rationale of your survey is flawed, the respondents may be confused and reluctant to answer the questions. A coherent logic of the survey has to be applied as well as tested in order to ensure that only relevant questions show up on the basis of the responses of the respondents.

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What are the different categories of survey method?

Here we will explore five types of survey method based on two categories. We have previously discussed the category based on mode of administration in the beginning of the blog as types of surveys. 

Based on samplingn method:

Sample is referred to as the audience that will fill your survey as respondents. Your sample should consist of respondents that have the required demographic characteristics that you are planning to study and those who can answer the survey questions relevantly in order to generate the most insight. The more representative you sample, the better the quality of your results.

1. Probability sampling:

In this sampling method, participants are chosen at random in such a way that every participant under consideration has an equal chance to be a part of the study. This sampling method allows us to draw strong inferences about our study and increases its generalisability. 

This is the most recommended method of sampling when doing market or consumer research because we want to make sure our biases will not influence our findings. There four types of probability sampling: simple random sampling, cluster sampling, stratified sampling, and systematic sampling. 

To learn more read A Comprehensive Guide to Probability Sampling: Types and Examples

2. Non-probability sampling: 

In this sampling method, there is non-random selection of respondents in the study. This sampling method is only used when researchers are running on a time-limit, or when there is no way to access certain group members of the general population. The four types of non-probability sampling methods include: convenience sampling, snowball sampling, voluntary response sampling, and purposive sampling.

Based on timeframe:

We can group survey methods based on the timeframe it requires to complete a research. 

1. Cross-sectional studies:  

In cross-sectional surveys, the study takes place at a single point in time. Hence, cross-sectional surveys do not entail the manipulation of the variables under study, and are limited in that way. Cross-sectional surveys allow researchers to study various characteristics, such as the demographic structure of the consumers, their interests, and attitudes, all at once. It aims to provide information about the population at the current moment in time. 

For example, cross-sectional surveys will tell us how the consumer is responding and feeling about the product at the present moment. It does not study the other variables that may affect the consumers’ reactions to the product in the future.

2. Longitudinal studies: 

Longitudinal surveys, on the other hand, involves studying variables for a long period of time and observing the changes in them from time to time. Here, the data is collected from the respondents at the beginning of the study, and then the researcher collects data at different time intervals until the end of the study. 

Longitudinal surveys are more popularly used in medicinal science to understand and evaluate the effects of medicines, or vaccines, in the long-run on participants. Because longitudinal surveys take place for several years, researchers can establish the sequence of events that may affect the variable under study.

3. Correlational studies: 

A correlation refers to an association or a relationship between two entities. A correlational research studies how one entity impacts the other and what are the changes that are observed when either one of them changes. This research method is carried out to understand naturally occurring relationships between variables. Hence, at least two groups are required to conduct a correlational quantitative research successfully. 

The variables under this study are not in control of the researcher, the researcher is simply trying to establish whether or not a relationship between two variables exists. Since correlational studies only give us an understanding of whether there is a relationship between two groups, it does not establish causation. 

Thus, it is not recommended to make conclusions just on the basis of a correlational study; just because two variables are in sync, does not mean they are interrelated, or that one variable is causing the changes in the other variable!

Also read: Mastering the Types of Research Methodology

Voxco’s Guide to Buying the Best Survey Software for Market Research

Download a comprehensive survey software buyer’s guide to make an informed decision about which tool best meets their needs.

What is a survey- Its different types

Researchers need to use the right questions as well as the right medium to administer their online surveys when they are conducting a survey research. Voxco helps researchers to create and administer different kinds of questionnaires, polls, and even quizzes. Some of these survey templates include:

1. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) and Net Promoter Score (NPS® ) Survey: 

In market research, customers are deemed as the most important part of the organization. It is a known fact that satisfied customers will help your organization grow directly by remaining loyal to your company and also by becoming an advocate for your brand. These two survey help you assess your brand’s value and how likely are your customers to recommend your brand to others.

2. Employee Satisfaction Survey: 

This survey is used to assess the satisfaction levels of employees working for an organization. It helps in gaining insight about the culture of the organization and how satisfied your workforce is working in that culture.

3. Company Communications Evaluation: 

This is used when a researcher wants to evaluate an employee’s perspective about topics relating to the internal communications in the company, how efficient the organization’s management is in maintaining conversations, etc.

4. B2B Survey: 

B2B refers to business to business survey templates. These are useful in collecting feedback about the elements that contribute to the growth of your business directly. They include; vendors, clients, the experiences of both, etc.

5. Business Demographic Survey: 

This survey seeks to find out the demographic details in order for researchers to gain information on occupation, the job functions and description, the organization’s net income, etc.

6. Strategic Planning Survey: 

This survey helps companies understand areas that need improvement or innovations. Researchers also analyze the areas to implement customer support and product making strategy. This also helps organizations to come up with business strategies including marketing and advertising. 

7. Course Evaluation Survey: 

This survey type is used by educational institutes. It helps them analyze the feedback they receive by students on the courses offered and if they are proving to be helpful for the students or not.

Voxco helps the top 50 MR firms & 450+ global brands gather omnichannel feedback, measure sentiment, uncover insights, and act on them.

See How Voxco Can Enhance Your Research Efficiency.


In conclusion, a survey is a powerful tool that allows you to gather valuable data directly from your target audience. Whether conducted face-to-face, over the phone, or online, surveys provide a structured way of collecting insights, understanding experiences, and guaging attitudes. 

By carefully designing surveys and analyzing data, you can make informed decisions, improve products and services, and better understand the preference of the target population.

Net Promoter®, NPS®, NPS Prism®, and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld. Net Promoter Score℠ and Net Promoter System℠ are service marks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.

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