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Types Of Surveys: Overview, Types, Advantages, Examples & More

Updated: May 8

Face to face interview is one of many examples of different types of surveys

Surveys are an effective method of gathering information from individuals or groups. They are a versatile tool used in many different fields, including marketing, research, and social sciences. In this article, I'll provide an overview of surveys, discuss the various types of surveys along with advantages of each, provide guidance for choosing the right survey type, and share best practices for collecting and analysing survey responses.

Tables of contents

Definition and Overview of Surveys

A survey is a research method used to gather data from a sample of individuals. Surveys can be conducted through a variety of methods, including online surveys, telephone surveys, postal surveys, and face to face interviews. Surveys are used to collect both quantitative and qualitative data, which can be used to inform decisions or research findings.

3 categories of surveys based on frequency

All the various types of surveys fall into the following 3 main broad categories dependent on the frequency of running the survey:

1. Cross-sectional surveys

Cross-sectional surveys are a type of survey that collects data from a sample of the population at a specific point in time. These surveys are useful for gaining a snapshot of a particular population and are often used in market research and opinion polling. Cross-sectional surveys can be conducted through different methods such as online surveys, telephone interviews, or face-to-face interviews.

2. Longitudinal surveys

Longitudinal surveys are a type of survey that collects data from the same group of people over an extended period of time. These surveys are useful for tracking changes in attitudes, behaviours, and experiences over time. Longitudinal surveys can be conducted through methods such as online surveys, telephone interviews, or postal surveys.

3. Panel surveys

Panel surveys are a type of longitudinal survey that collects data from the same group of people at multiple points in time. These surveys are useful for understanding changes in attitudes, behaviours, and experiences within a specific group of people. By using a survey panel allows these surveys to be conducted through methods such as online surveys or telephone interviews, and typically require a significant time commitment from participants.

Types of Surveys

There are several types of surveys that can be used to gather different types of data. Here are some of the most common types of surveys:

Online surveys

Online surveys are becoming increasingly popular due to their convenience and low cost. Online surveys are usually completed through a web-based platform or email. They can be used to collect a large amount of quantitative data from a big sample size. Also, it can be customized to include multiple choice, ranking, and open-ended questions.

Examples of online surveys:

  • Customer satisfaction surveys emailed to customers after a purchase or service.

  • Employee feedback surveys sent through a company intranet or email.

  • Market research surveys distributed through social media or online panels.

Phone surveys

Phone surveys involve conducting a survey over the phone and asking a series of questions. This type of survey is effective for reaching people who may not have access to the internet or prefer not to use it. While they can be more time-consuming and expensive than online surveys, phone surveys offer a higher response rate and the ability to gather more detailed information. Phone surveys are often used in political campaigns and customer satisfaction research.

Examples of phone surveys:

  • Political opinion polls conducted by research firms.

  • Customer satisfaction surveys conducted by customer service representatives.

  • Health surveys conducted by healthcare providers.

Postal surveys

Postal surveys involve sending a survey through the mail. This type of survey is less common due to the time and cost involved. However, postal surveys can be effective for gathering detailed feedback from a specific population or hard to reach groups. Postal surveys also allow participants to take their time in answering questions, which can result in more thoughtful and detailed responses.

Examples of postal surveys:

  • Patient satisfaction surveys mailed to patients after a hospital visit.

  • Customer feedback surveys mailed to customers by a retail company.

  • Non-profit fundraising surveys mailed to donors.

Face to face surveys

Face to face surveys is effective in gathering detailed feedback and building relationships with participants in person. They can be conducted on the street, in a shopping mall, or at an event. Face to face surveys is a great option when gathering qualitative data, as they allow researchers to ask follow-up questions and observe non-verbal communication. However, they can be time-consuming and expensive to conduct. Face to face surveys is often used in medical research and focus groups.

Examples of face-to-face surveys:

  • Exit surveys conducted at the end of a visit to a healthcare facility.

  • Market research surveys conducted by interviewers in a shopping centre.

  • Community needs assessments conducted by community health organizations.

Advantages of Various Survey Types

Each type of survey has its own set of advantages. Online surveys are cost-effective and can reach a large audience, while phone surveys can reach people who don't have access to the internet. Postal surveys can gather detailed feedback, and face to face surveys can build relationships with participants. Choosing the right type of survey depends on the research objectives, target population, and available resources.

Below is a list of advantages for each type of survey.

Advantages of Online Surveys

  • Cost-effective: Online surveys are less expensive compared to other survey methods, such as face to face surveys or phone surveys.

  • Wide Reach: Online surveys can reach a large and diverse audience, including people from different geographic locations, age groups, and income levels.

  • Convenient: Respondents can complete an online survey at their convenience, which increases response rates.

  • Anonymity: Online surveys offer respondents anonymity, which may encourage them to provide honest feedback.

Advantages of Telephone Surveys

  • High Response Rates: Phone surveys have higher response rates compared to other survey methods, such as postal surveys.

  • Real-time Feedback: Phone surveys allow for real-time feedback and provide an opportunity to clarify survey questions.

  • Cost-effective: Phone surveys are less expensive than face to face surveys.

  • Personalization: Phone surveys provide a personal touch, which may encourage respondents to provide more detailed feedback.

Advantages of Face-to-Face Surveys

  • Detailed Feedback: Face-to-face surveys allow for detailed feedback, including body language and non-verbal cues.

  • Establish Trust: Face-to-face surveys establish trust and rapport between the interviewer and respondent, which may increase response rates.

  • Clarification: Face-to-face surveys allow for clarification of survey questions and provide an opportunity to answer any questions.

  • Collecting Visual Data: Face-to-face surveys allow the interviewer to collect visual data that cannot be collected through other methods.

Advantages of postal surveys

  • Targeted Population: Postal surveys can be sent to a targeted population, which may increase response rates and provide more relevant data.

  • Detailed Feedback: Postal surveys allow for detailed feedback, as respondents can take their time to respond to the questions.

  • Flexibility: Postal surveys offer respondents flexibility to complete the survey at their convenience.

  • Anonymity: Postal surveys offer respondents anonymity, which may encourage them to provide honest feedback.

Choosing the Right Survey Type

Choosing the right type of survey is critical to collecting accurate and actionable data. When choosing a survey type, consider the following:

  • Research Objectives: What are the research objectives, and what type of data do you need to gather?

  • Target Population: Who is the target population, and what method of surveying is most likely to reach them?

  • Resources: What resources are available, and what is the budget for the survey?

  • Data Collection: What data collection method is most appropriate for the research objectives and target population?

Collecting and Analysing Survey Responses

After choosing the right survey type, it's important to collect and analyse survey responses effectively. Here are some best practices for collecting and analysing survey responses:

  • Design the Survey Effectively: Design the survey questions and structure to gather the required information effectively.

  • Use Random Sampling: Use random sampling techniques to ensure the sample represents the target population without bias.

  • Analyse Data Effectively: Use statistical methods and data analysis software to analyse the data collected.

  • Report Findings Effectively: Report the findings in a clear and concise manner that accurately reflects the data.


Surveys are an essential tool for gathering information and insights from individuals or groups. Choosing the right type of survey for your research depends on your research objectives, budget, and target audience. Each survey method has its advantages and disadvantages, and it's important to consider them carefully before making a decision. By choosing the right survey method, you can ensure that you gather the data you need to make informed decisions and drive your research forward.


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