Structured surveys administered to large numbers of people are the bedrock of quantitative research. The findings from a survey of a representative sample of a particular group are indicative of that group as a whole. Groups can range from the narrowly defined, such as professors of chemistry in UK universities, to the very broad, for example the population of the UK as a whole. For some relatively small and tightly defined groups, such as recipients of funding from a particular grant scheme, it may be possible to include everyone.
On-line, Internet, web-based surveys
Increasingly data can be collected via on-line surveys. While there is a lot of debate about how reliable on-line surveys of the general public can be, there is no doubt that this is a reliable and cost effective method for specialist groups, such as academics, civil servants and those in business. High response rates make the findings more reliable and credible and PSP regularly achieves response rates of 50% and sometimes much higher, depending on the topic and the potential respondent’s relationship with our client.
A key factor in this success is intelligent and easy to complete questionnaire design. Our questionnaires are tailored to ask questions that genuinely address client concerns, in terminology that engages expert communities. Combining tick box questions with others that allow responses to be written-in, enables respondents to respond quickly and in full. Computerised routeing means that only relevant questions are asked. All this minimises the time taken for each respondent to complete the questionnaire and reminder e-mails are sent only to those who have not yet responded.
PSP has specialist software to design, field and analyse large-scale web-based surveys in-house. Internet surveys allow us full control over the research process and enable us to add value at every stage.
Some examples of our work that has included on-line surveys are:
- A Study of Beekeeping Practices: Influences and Information Sources
- An Assessment of the Chemistry-Biology Interface in the UK
- Factors Affecting Science Communication: A survey of scientists and engineers
Other survey methodologies
Survey data can also be collected in a number of other ways – by telephone, in people’s homes and in the street are common methods used by social and market researchers and PSP works with market research companies when we want to use these methods to interview members of the public. PSP may subcontract the data collection and sometimes data processing to quality assured companies.
Analysis is mainly done in-house using specialist statistical software (SPSS). We use a range of multivariate techniques to explore the meaning of the findings and where more advanced modelling can help to make the findings more useful, we have access to specialist subcontracts.
Some examples of our work that has included surveys using other data collection techniques are:
- Public Attitudes to Science 2008: Research Councils UK and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (conducted in partnership with TNS)
- Public Perceptions of Physics: Institute Of Physics
- Evaluation of Engineering a Better World
- Evaluation of “Mind the Gap” for the Y-Touring Theatre Company
- See more information on surveys