Surveys, Instruments, Questionnaires

in this presentation I'm going to

discuss the distinctions between surveys

measurement instruments and

questionnaires these three terms are

often used interchangeably even though

they refer to different parts of the

research design because we do often fall

into the trap of using survey instrument

questionnaires if there are synonyms

it's often difficult for students to

differentiate between these terms

broadly speaking one might think of a

questionnaire as a specific type of

measurement instrument and a measurement

instrument as one tool that can be used

for data collection within a research

study for the purposes of this

presentation we're going to think of a

measurement instrument as a tool that

can be used to click data for a survey

research project specifically let's

break this down and talk about each

element in turn let's begin with a broad

definition of Survey Research there are

a lot of books on survey methodology out

there and one of them the International

handbook of survey methodology makes the

point in the very first chapter that

most of these books fail to actually

provide a definition of Survey Research

instead they jump right into the

characteristics and errors associated

with survey methodology and they assume

the reader will infer what a survey

really is experts in the field of

research methodology have created a

common definition of Survey Research

that is supported by the American

Statistical Association the American

Association for public opinion research

and many other professional

organizations who take on the stay of

research methodology as their

intentional focus so what is Survey

Research Survey Research is a broad term

that can be used to describe any

research study that systematically

collects data from a sample typically

for the purpose of making

generalizations about a population a

survey research design can be used with

any research questions that can be

investigated using a sample instead of

an entire population worth of data

survey methods can be used whether data

collection is done via face-to-face

interviews self-administered online

sites like Survey Monkey or Qualtrics or

even a diary study or records review

survey research can include the

collection of quantitative or

qualitative data or both regardless of

how those data will be analyzed so if

the term Survey Research refers to such

a broad group of techniques and design

characteristics why does the term even

exist the answer is that not all

research studies

attempt to collect data from a sample

sums research attempts to account for

every member of the target population

directly and we call those census

research designs the best example of

this is the US Census that happens every

10 years and attempts to count every

person living in the u.s. at the time

ultimately this means that if someone

tells or researcher writes that they

have used a survey design it really just

technically means that they did not

collect data from entire population but

they did collect their data in a

systematic way that's good to know

but it really does not tell you a whole

lot about the study or how it's been

conducted now that we know what a survey

is let's discuss how a measurement

instrument is different a measurement

instrument is any tool that we can use

to help us collect the same data from or

about every member of our target

population or sample in this context

consistent data means the same

information from all participants for

example if we're conducting interviews

and we ask our first participant when

they last saw a physician we want to ask

the same question of every other

participant so that we're collecting

consistent data that means we'll also

want to ask the same question in the

same way a measurement instrument can be

anything from an interview protocol to a

phone study script to the actual list of

questions and response options that we

ask online research participants to

complete themselves measurement

instruments are not specific to a type

of research focus or question nor are

they limited to a specific mode of data

collection a type of data or specific

set of analytic techniques measurement

instruments are some Kyle sometimes

called survey instruments or just plain

instruments these three terms really are

pretty synonymous but for the purpose of

this presentation I think measurement

instruments is the term that most

accurately reflects what they are and

what their function is it's important to

remember that measurement instruments

are used in almost every type of

research design you can imagine both

survey and non survey research what

changes is what they look like and how

they are used to collect the data of

interest finally let's talk about


instruments can take many forms one of

which is the questionnaire

the word questionnaire is used to refer

to a specific format that can be used to

ask questions it's important to remember

that while all questioners are

measurement instruments not all

measurement instruments are also

questionnaires traditionally we think of

a questionnaire as a piece of paper that

presents a list of items and prescribed

response items that we want our

participants to use and we imagine

ourselves passing out these pieces of

paper to our potential participants and

having them fill in their answers this

is an example of a questionnaire but

it's not the only way a questionnaire

might look the most important aspects of

a questionnaire are that it presents in

a fixed format the instructions for the

participants the questions we want to

ask and the response options we want

them to use or a blank space for them to

record an open-ended response these

characteristics are not specific to use

on paper the same type of form can be

completed by an interviewer who's asking

questions in person by phone even over

the internet provided that the interview

is following a strict script without a

sort of intuitive or off-the-cuff

probing questions in summary a

questionnaire is a specific set of

questions created together to measure

specific construct in a consistent way

questionnaires are then used alone or in

combination and may account for all or

portion of the measurement instruments

that are used to collect data the

measurement instruments themselves are

just one small aspect or design feature

of a survey research projects total

design survey research project finally

is an umbrella term that refers to a

general strategy to systematically

collect information from a sample of a