Understanding the 3 Main Types of Research Surveys

August 21, 2023
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Surveys play a vital role in collecting essential information. If you understand the different types of research surveys, you’ll be able to collect more meaningful data.

In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the fundamentals of three main survey types: exploratory, descriptive, and causal. We’ll give you insights into their distinct purposes, methodologies, and the unique benefits they offer.

Let's dive into the world of research surveys!

What are the three types of surveying?

In order to create surveys, you’re going to need a form creator. Google Forms is a simple tool, but if you need help creating one, check out our guide on creating a Google Form!

Exploratory surveys

This type of survey aims to explore a topic or problem broadly in an introductory manner. It’s conducted when there’s limited or no existing knowledge of the subject at hand.

Exploratory research aims to generate insights, ideas, and hypotheses rather than quantifying data or making conclusive statements. For this reason, open-ended questions are best for this kind of research.

Some key characteristics of this kind of research are:

  • Flexible and Unstructured: It’s open-ended and flexible. It allows you to adapt your approach, methods, and questions as your gather data and gain insights.
  • Qualitative Data: It generates qualitative data, such as descriptions, opinions, and perspectives. The data gathered can’t be quantified, meaning it can’t be measured.
  • Small and Diverse Samples: These involve relatively small and diverse samples. The diversity of the sample pool can allow you to gather a range of perspectives and experiences regarding an area or topic.
  • Hypothesis Generation: It helps generate a hypothesis rather than testing that hypothesis.
  • In-depth and Detailed Analysis: It involves thorough analysis and exploration of a topic. The surveyor delves into the collected information, identifies recurring themes, and extracts meaningful insights to inform future research directions.

Benefits of exploratory surveys

With exploratory research, you can gain a deeper understanding of a relatively unexplored or poorly understood problem. You can generate new ideas and hypotheses while identifying areas that can be explored further.

Additionally, exploratory research allows you to gather diverse perspectives and identify the variables of a problem. This can help problem-solving by establishing relationships and patterns between variables.

Exploratory question examples

Exploratory surveys answer broad questions like “What factors influence consumers' decision-making when choosing a brand?” or “What are the key factors that drive brand loyalty among our existing customer base?”

Some open-ended questions that may be used to gain insights into these questions can be:

  • Can you describe the factors influencing your decision when choosing a product or service in [specific industry]?
  • Are there any particular emotions or feelings that play a role in your decision-making process?
  • What role does brand reputation or trust play in your decision-making process?

Descriptive surveys

Rather than addressing a topic broadly, descriptive surveys aim to describe a topic or area in more detail. The primary purpose of descriptive surveys is to describe a particular phenomenon or group comprehensively.

To do that, these surveys typically use structured questionnaires with closed-ended questions to collect quantitative and conclusive data. The data collected is then analyzed and summarized using statistical measures such as frequencies, percentages, averages, or correlations.

Descriptive surveys are widely used in various fields, such as market research, social sciences, healthcare, and more. Some characteristics of descriptive surveys are:

  • Objectives: Here, the aim is to describe and capture information about problems, behaviors, opinions, or attitudes of a sample.
  • Quantitative Data: With the help of structured questionnaires based on closed-ended questions, you collect qualitative data that can be measured.
  • Large Sample Sizes: You need a larger sample size to ensure that the data collected is representative of the sample.
  • Statistical Analysis: The collected data is analyzed using statistical techniques to summarize the key findings.
  • Representative Samples: You have to ensure the survey sample represents the target population as closely as possible so that your results are reliable and generally applicable.

Benefits of descriptive surveys

Unlike exploratory surveys, descriptive surveys ask closed-ended questions. This lets you gather information quickly and efficiently, giving you a clear picture of what's happening. As you use structured questionnaires with set answer options, it becomes easier to analyze and summarize the data as well. If you use Advanced Summary for Google Forms, this is even easier!

These surveys help you reach conclusions that can inform decision-making. Since the sample size is large and objective data is drawn, you can have confidence in the reliability of the results. Further, you can also be sure that the result is representative of the sample.

Descriptive question examples

This is the most widely found type of survey online. Customer satisfaction surveys, employee engagement surveys, demographic surveys, market research surveys, and event feedback surveys are all descriptive surveys that can have closed-ended questions on them like:

  • Did our customer service team adequately resolve your issue? (Yes/No)
  • Do you feel that your superiors value your opinions and ideas? (Yes/No)
  • What is your age range? (18-24 / 25-34 / 35-44 / 45-54 / 55 and above)
  • Overall, how satisfied were you with the event? (Very dissatisfied - Very satisfied)

Since most questions on a descriptive survey are closed-ended, it becomes crucial that responses are accurate and error-free. Sending respondents a copy of their responses is a great way to ensure the veracity of responses. This also ensures that respondents can alter their responses if an error occurs.

If you’re using Google Forms, you know that sending response summaries through Google Forms is possible. However, another way to take your response summaries to another level is to try Form Publisher with Google Forms.

Causal surveys

Causal surveys are research studies exploring cause-and-effect relationships between variables. They aim to determine whether changes in one variable directly influence another variable.

In a descriptive survey, factors aren’t manipulated, only recorded for description. But in a causal survey, specific factors are manipulated to see their effect on the overall outcome.

Some characteristics include:

  • Experimental Design: Causal surveys often involve experimental designs, where participants are assigned to different groups.
  • Manipulation of Variables: Independent variables are intentionally manipulated to observe their impact on a dependent variable.
  • Control Group: These surveys typically include a control group that doesn’t receive the manipulated variable. It serves as a baseline for comparison.
  • Randomization: To ensure unbiased results, participants in causal surveys are often randomly assigned to different groups.
  • Quantitative Data Analysis: Causal surveys gather quantitative data, which is then statistically analyzed.
  • Replication: To establish reliable findings, causal surveys sometimes have to be replicated with different samples or settings.

Benefits of causal surveys

These surveys enable researchers to draw conclusions about cause and effect, providing valuable insights into the influencing factors in various situations.

Causal question examples

Causal research can help establish cause and effect in such questions as:

  • What is the effect of elevation on VO2 max in an individual?
  • What is the effect of changing packaging on items sold?
  • What is the effect of using children of [age] in advertising for [product]?

Organize your survey results better with Form Publisher!

There you have it! The three main types of research surveys and what they can help you achieve. If you’re conducting an online survey, you’re undoubtedly familiar with Google Forms, the most intuitive and efficient platform for creating forms and surveys.To further enhance your Google Forms experience, consider using Form Publisher to organize your survey process. Form Publisher is a Google Forms add-on that can create individual documents out of responses for you and also send personalized response summaries. Explore Form Publisher today!

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