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Descriptive-survey research

Steps for Doing Descriptive-Survey Research

The process of descriptive-survey research includes the following steps:

  • Designing and developing the survey
  • Selecting the sample
  • Piloting the survey
  • Administering final survey and collecting data
  • Analyzing data

Designing and developing the survey, selecting the sample that will pilot the survey, and administering the survey will be discussed.

Designing and Developing a Survey

A survey or questionnaire is the main tool or instrument used to collect data in a descriptive-survey research study. Because survey researchers typically study issues and behaviors that change over time, they usually develop new instruments or refine existing ones. A common misperception about survey development is that it is easy: just put some questions down on a piece of paper, and voila! You have a survey ready to mail out to the participants.

Selecting the Sample

Out of all the quantitative approaches, survey research tries to use the largest sample possible. In many cases, survey research is conducted with either a census population, meaning the sampling of the entire population, or a randomly selected sample for a larger population. One thing to keep in mind when selecting your sample for survey research is that not everyone who is selected for your sample and sent a survey will participate in the study by filling it out and mailing it back. This becomes a major barrier to the generalizability of the findings.

Piloting the Survey

Any survey should be pilot-tested with a small group of persons similar to those who will be in the final sample. Think of piloting as a kind of dress rehearsal for a survey.

Hopefully the survey will be sound enough for the members of the pilot group to complete it. When piloting your study, provide an additional sheet to the survey for pilot participants to write any comments, suggestions, or questions they have about the survey. Like Alysia, you should use this feedback to make corrections or refinements to the final survey

Administering the Survey

The paper-pencil, mail-out, mail-back survey has been the traditional method for survey administration. This method has many benefits, especially from a measurement perspective. First, it helps to ensure that the confidentiality of the participants’ responses will be maintained.

The researcher mails surveys directly to a group of teachers, who fill them out and mail them back using an enclosed SASE. This helps to ensure that no one except the researcher will have access to the information on the survey

Designs That Follow the Same Sample Over Time

In some cases, based on the type of question being asked, a survey researcher might draw a sample from a defined population and then continue to survey the participants from the sample over a period of time. Keep in mind that this particular approach will only allow the researcher to ask questions of the same group of participants.

With this design, the researcher can determine how the participants changed over time and keep track of the different experiences they may have had over time. Only individual changes could be monitored. Presented below are different designs where the researcher is doing this and is using the same sample over time

Summary

Descriptive survey research is one of the most common types of quantitative research in education. Researchers use cover letters to accompany their surveys. The cover letter defines the purpose of the study, discusses confidentiality of data, and provides the researcher’s contact information. The survey itself is composed of different sections that gather different types of data.

The first section of the survey is called the demographic section and collects personal information about the participants. The body of the survey is made up of similar items grouped together. These groupings are aligned with the research sub questions the researcher is asking. When writing survey items, the researcher should adhere to some basic criteria. Survey items should be written in clear, concise language.

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