Survey Design

Survey design is used to describe the opinions, beliefs, behaviors, and or characteristics of a population based on the results of a sample. This design involves the use of surveys that include questions, statements, and or other ways of soliciting information from the sample. This design is used for descriptive purpose primarily but can be combined with other designs (correlational, experimental) at times as well. In this post we will look at the following.

  • Types of Survey Design
  • Characteristics of Survey Design

Types of Survey Design

There are two common forms of survey design which are cross-sectional and longitudinal.   A cross-sectional survey design is the collection of data at one specific point in time. Data is only collected once in a cross-sectional design.

A cross-sectional design can be used to measure opinions/beliefs, compare two or more groups, evaluate a program, and or measure the needs of a specific group. The main goal is to analyze the data from a sample at a given moment in time.

A longitudinal design is similar to a cross-sectional design with the difference being that longitudinal designs require collection over time.Longitudinal studies involve cohorts and panels in which data is collected over days, months, years, and even decades. Through doing this, a longitudinal study is able to expose trends over time in a sample.

Characteristics of Survey Design

There are certain traits that are associated with survey design. Questionnaires and interviews are a common component of survey design. The questionnaires can happen by mail, phone, internet, and in person. Interviews can happen by phone, in focus groups, or one-on-one.

The design of a survey instrument often includes personal, behavioral and attitudinal questions, and open/closed questions.

Another important characteristic of survey design is monitoring the response rate. The response rate is the percentage of participants in the study compared to the number of surveys that were distributed. The response rate varies depending on how the data was collected. Normally, personal interviews have the highest rate while email request have the lowest.

It is sometimes necessary to report the response rate when trying to publish. As such, you should at the very least be aware of what the rate is for a study you are conducting.


Surveys are used to collected data at one point in time or over time. The purpose of this approach is develop insights into the population in order to describe what is happening or to be used to make decisions and inform practice.



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