Guide to surveys
The archive
On this page, you will find all the past articles of this website. The articles are classified into 5 topics. Each topic presents a choice of articles. At this moment the archive is in the process of being translated. As soon as an article of this archive is translated, its title and description will be translated accordingly.

Please note : Often, an article can be related to more than one topic. When this is happening, the article is classified in the most relevant topic. Be sure to look at all the topics. If you do not find what you need, you can still write to me to suggest a subject for an article.

Your webmaster : Frédéric D'Astous

All the topics covered

Also : Details about the other pages on this website


Attitude and ethics. It is not enough to write down some principles before engaging yourself in a survey procedure. It is also important that the procedure itself demonstrate the implementation of those principles.

Keeping your objectivity - What is the role of objectivity when you decide to carry out a survey ?

Looking at a problem - Many of those who want to do a survey, have in mind something that can be called : exploratory study. This can give an enormous quantity of information, often very useful. But it can be tricky.

Protection of privacy - To carry out a survey we have to ask for information related to personal matters. Usually, the confidentiality of all answers is part of the expectations even when the requested information is trivial.


Behavior of groups and populations. What's happening when you are trying to observe people by the mean of a survey  ? You might end up with unexpected reactions. So be careful!

Influence of past experience of people with the use of scale in surveys - In the simplest case, it is important to be careful. A cause of problem, can be the past experience with questionnaires of those you plan to interview. 

Creating a sample from a population - What is a sample of population ? What is the relation between the sample and the population ?

Les indécis - Il ne faut jamais considérer les indécis comme une quantité négligeable. Ces gens ont souvent des caractéristiques propres.

L'intervention externe dans un organisme - Comment un organisme peut-il réagir lorsqu'un intervenant externe décide d'y faire une étude ?


Data collection. To think about this issue means you pay attention on how researchers are gathering data. Each method have it's own advantages and inconveniences.

(NEW) The advisers and specialists as documentary sources - The contribution of advisers and specialists can be very important for a research. Thoses persons can be helpful at two specific moments. First, when you search for documentary sources, they give you the human element. Second, sometimes they will be those you will interview to gather your data.

Choosing words for questions related to a frequency of use - When your doing a survey, it is better to avoid the vague terms in your questionnaire. Everyone, had the occasion to read surveys with questions like: "do you often use service XYZ ?" But, what is the meaning of : often ?

The focus group - What we can call a "focus group" is an interesting technique. It allows an interaction among the persons. This quality is also its inconvenience!

How to link the goal of a survey with the questionnaire - How to build a questionnaire on such or such subject? The answer to this question will always depend on the circumstances of each survey. You can solve this problem by following a method.

The issues related to practical assessment of a margin of error - If there is an obsession widely spread among those who do surveys, it is the margin of error. Everybody wants to know at which degree the results of the survey are reliable. To resolve this problem, most will trust statistical probability. But ...

Is it an efficient strategy to use a questionnaire created by someone else ? - The idea seems beautiful. Wouldn't it be some saving of time by using a questionnaire that is already made. Especially if it's one that was already used in a real life situation ?

Overview of survey methodology - Here is a serie of articles dedicated to the realization of surveys. This series was published on this site during the second part of 1999. The proposed method takes into account various practical situations which can occur when you need to do a survey. Also, those articles includes links to some others of this website.

The various topics covered are :

The role of hypothesis when you're planning a survey - Some recommend to identify hypothesis at the beginning of a search. Such identification can enable the researcher to clarify the nature of what should be measured. But, it is not always possible nor desirable.

Various factors influencing a margin of error - When someone have to gather data, it is likely he will try to build a quantitative study. The logic of this choice is: it will be more precise. Indeed, it will be possible to have an evaluation of the statistical precision of the results. Everything will seem so perfect ! Unfortunately, things are not so simple.

(NEW) The structure of a questionnaire - The conception of a questionnaire is an important step. To be sure to have all chances of success, you must know exactly what you're seeking for.

Les corrélations et les causalités - On s'imagine souvent qu'il y a un lien entre deux phénomènes lorsqu'ils varient d'une manière similaire. Ce n'est pas toujours le cas ! 

La courbe normale utilisée en statistiques - Pour décrire la plupart des phénomènes humains, on utilise la forme en cloche de la courbe normale. Cette forme correspond à des comportements observables.


Lists. A list will give you the identification of who you should be able to reach. Some lists are less than perfect. And sometimes you have no list at all !

Using lists When you plan to do a survey, you might want to use some kind of list. But, how to work with it ? Here are some clues.

L'annuaire du téléphone Contrairement à ce que plusieurs croient, les listes téléphoniques sont loin d'être idéales.

L'utilisation des lieux fréquentés par une clientèle En l'absence d'une liste, il est parfois pratique de chercher à joindre les gens à partir des lieux qu'ils fréquentent. Sous certaines conditions, ce peut être méthodologiquement admissible.


Sampling. The sampling is one of the keys to build a good survey. If your sampling is inadequate regarding the goals of the survey, your confronted with a major flaw.

No list ? Use the cluster or area random sampling - You can't use a list ? You might want to try the cluster sampling. Even when a list is available, it is sometimes an interesting technique.

L'échantillonnage non-aléatoire - Il ne faut pas sous-estimer les avantages reliés aux techniques non-aléatoires. Voici en quoi elles peuvent aider le sondeur.

L'échantillonnage accidentel - Les sondeurs n'ont pas toujours sous la main des listes permettant de réaliser une sélection aléatoire des répondants. C'est là que l'échantillonnage accidentel peut être utile.


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