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  2. Understand your audience
  3. Research methods
  4. Overview of Research Methods
  5. Surveys
  6. Conducting


How to do it?

For conducting survey research, it is fundamental to choose the type of administration and distribution of the questionnaire. The following table presents a comparison in terms of advantages and disadvantages of three modes of administering survey questionnaires: face-to-face, telephone, and self-administered (on paper or electronically).

Comparing three modes of administering survey questionnaires

Advantages and DisadvantagesMode of administration



Usable with respondents who cannot readYesYesNo
Researcher can explain the meaning of a questionYesYesNo
Researchers’ certainty about identity of respondentHighMediumLow
Interaction with administrator of questionnaireHighMediumLow
Certainty that all respondents get exactly the same questionLowMediumHigh
Cost per respondentHighMediumLow
Time per questionHighHighLow
Possible to administer to groupsYesNoYes
Effort required to obtain a large sample sizeHighMediumLow
Problems of access to respondents in remote or unsafe areasYesNoNo
Researchers’ efficiency tied to that of the postal, internet, or telephone systemNoYesYes


When considering using a self-administered mode, it may be advantageous to use online surveys instead of paper-an-pencil survey, given that they are usually less expensive; participants’ responses are automatically stored and, thus, the analysis becomes easier since the database is available immediately; and more convenient for respondents because they can answer on their own schedule and pace. However, online surveys can also present some disadvantages, such as limited respondent availability given that certain populations are less likely to have Internet access, and possible cooperation problems because of the amount of information that can divert respondents attention to the survey.



The following steps should be taken in the distribution and administration of the survey:

  • Train interviewers and staff (if necessary).
  • Decide if respondents will be rewarded by their participation.
  • Consider possible methods to publicize the study.
  • Contact potential respondents (e.g., by mail, telephone or face-to-face). In this initial contact it is important to:

List institutional affiliation

Explain the purpose and usefulness of the study and what is required by the respondent

Explain how respondents were chosen and why participation is important

Explain how confidentiality and anonymity will be protected

Provide an estimate of the time required to complete the survey

Describe rewards (if applicable)

Schedule participation

Provide a name and a contact (e.g., phone number or email) for the respondent to contact for further information


  • Follow-up



Methods selection decision aid

Take this short quiz to learn what are the best 3 methods to understand your audience and answer your research question(s).