The Strengths and Weaknesses of Survey Research

February 20, 2024
Natalie Thorburn

Survey research is one of the primary methods for collecting data. It’s an essential component of academic research, social research, and market research, which businesses use to gain a deeper understanding of their customer base.

Survey research involves asking a set of questions to a group of individuals to solicit their opinions, attitudes, behaviors, and characteristics. While there are many benefits to survey research, the process has both pros and cons. In this piece, we’ll examine both the strengths and weaknesses of survey research.

Strengths of Survey Research

While there are many advantages to survey research, these are some of the biggest benefits—especially as compared to other research options.

Wide Range of Applications

One of the significant strengths of survey research is its wide range of applications. Surveys can be used to collect data on a wide range of topics, such as consumer preferences, political opinions, health behaviors, and educational attainment. For businesses, surveys can be instrumental to improving both employee experience (through employee engagement surveys and pulse checks, for example), as well as the customer experience (through Customer Satisfaction, Net Promoter Score, and many other customer survey types).

Surveys can also be conducted using various methods, such as online surveys, telephone surveys, face-to-face interviews, and even old fashioned pencil-and-paper surveys. Among those options, online surveys offer the greatest flexibility and the highest level of convenience—for both the survey makers and survey takers.


Another strength of survey research is its cost-effectiveness. Compared to other research methods, such as experiments or observations, surveys are relatively inexpensive to conduct. Surveys can be conducted with a small budget, and the data can be collected quickly and analyzed efficiently.

This is especially true with the advent of online survey platforms like Sogolytics, which comes with customizable survey templates, multichannel distribution, and instant, automated, real-time results and analytics.

Large Sample Size

Online surveys can also reach a large sample size, which makes it easier to generalize the findings to the target population. Compared to a small focus group of 10 to 20 people, surveys can be sent to hundreds or thousands of participants.

A larger sample size also reduces the margin of error and increases the statistical power of the study.


Anonymous and Confidential

Surveys can also be conducted anonymously, which means that participants will feel more comfortable providing honest and accurate responses without fear of judgment or repercussions. Surveys can also be kept confidential, which means that participants' personal information is kept secure and only accessible to the survey makers.

Weaknesses of Survey Research

Nobody’s perfect, and neither is any individual research method. All strategies have their downsides, and these are the weaknesses of survey research.

Response Bias

One of the most glaring weaknesses of survey research is response bias. Response bias occurs when participants provide inaccurate or misleading responses to a survey question or questions. Response bias can be caused by various factors, such as social desirability bias, where participants provide socially acceptable answers rather than their true opinions, or selection bias, where the sample is not representative of the target population.

Fortunately, there are ways to limit response bias, including the use of intentional language to avoid “leading questions,” and arranging questions in a way that minimizes recency bias.

Limited Depth of Information

Surveys are limited in their ability to provide in-depth information about the participants' attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Surveys are typically designed to collect data on a broad range of topics, which means that they are sometimes not as adept at providing detailed information about specific topics. Additionally, surveys are limited to the types of questions that can be asked, which means that they may not capture all of the nuances of the participants' experiences.

However, a well-designed survey can reap incredible insights into a particular subject or group of participants.

Limited Flexibility

Surveys are also limited in their flexibility. Once the survey questions are designed and distributed, it is difficult to modify or adjust them to reflect new or changing circumstances. Additionally, surveys may not be able to capture the full range of responses or opinions that participants may have on a particular topic.

However, it’s easy to include a spot in your survey where participants can share open-ended responses, allowing them to say whatever they want.

Lack of Contextual Information

Surveys do not necessarily provide contextual information that may help to explain the participants' responses. For example, surveys may not capture the situational factors that may have influenced the participants' opinions or behaviors. Without this contextual information, it could be difficult to interpret the survey results accurately.

Limiting the weaknesses and leveraging the strengths of survey research

All in all, survey research is an extremely powerful tool for collecting data on a wide range of topics. Its strengths include its wide range of applications, cost-effectiveness, large sample size, and anonymity. Its weaknesses, by comparison, are relatively minor, and can be minimized through smart survey design decisions.

If you’re looking for feedback, surveys remain one of the best ways to get it. Just be sure to use a powerful online survey platform like Sogolytics, which comes complete with expert-designed survey templates that are calibrated to collect reliable, trustworthy data.


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