There are various types of surveys you can choose from. Basically, the types of surveys are broadly categorized into two: according to instrumentation and according to the span of time involved. The types of surveys according to instrumentation include the questionnaire and the interview. On the other hand, the types of surveys according to the span of time used to conduct the survey are comprised of cross-sectional surveys and longitudinal surveys.
In survey research, the instruments that are utilized can be either a questionnaire or an interview (either structured or unstructured).
Typically, a questionnaire is a paper-and-pencil instrument that is administered to the respondents. The usual questions found in questionnaires are closed-ended questions, which are followed by response options. However, there are questionnaires that ask open-ended questions to explore the answers of the respondents.
Questionnaires have been developed over the years. Today, questionnaires are utilized in various survey methods, according to how they are given. These methods include the self-administered, the group-administered, and the household drop-off. Among the three, the self-administered survey method is often used by researchers nowadays. The self-administered questionnaires are widely known as the mail survey method. However, since the response rates related to mail surveys had gone low, questionnaires are now commonly administered online, as in the form of web surveys.
Between the two broad types of surveys, interviews are more personal and probing. Questionnaires do not provide the freedom to ask follow-up questions to explore the answers of the respondents, but interviews do.
An interview includes two persons - the researcher as the interviewer, and the respondent as the interviewee. There are several survey methods that utilize interviews. These are the personal or face-to-face interview, the phone interview, and more recently, the online interview.
The span of time needed to complete the survey brings us to the two different types of surveys: cross-sectional and longitudinal.
Collecting information from the respondents at a single period in time uses the cross-sectional type of survey. Cross-sectional surveys usually utilize questionnaires to ask about a particular topic at one point in time. For instance, a researcher conducted a cross-sectional survey asking teenagers’ views on cigarette smoking as of May 2010. Sometimes, cross-sectional surveys are used to identify the relationship between two variables, as in a comparative study. An example of this is administering a cross-sectional survey about the relationship of peer pressure and cigarette smoking among teenagers as of May 2010.
When the researcher attempts to gather information over a period of time or from one point in time up to another, he is doing a longitudinal survey. The aim of longitudinal surveys is to collect data and examine the changes in the data gathered. Longitudinal surveys are used in cohort studies, panel studies and trend studies.