Data Collection – Electronic Survey or In Person?

  • Building Design Expert
  • 3 years ago

Has anyone noticed a trend over the last few years for a never ending queue in your inbox for requests to complete an on-line survey on this subject or that. Some offer to reward you with an entry into a draw. Some offer you unashamed cash, and some simply say that your reward will be heaven – I really don’t like those ones. After all if I am to give 15 – 20 minutes of my most valuable time, I figure it must be worth something more than the promise of eternal life.

The student dissertation has fallen neatly in line with with the ‘Survey Monkey’ fashion. If you need data then the easiest way is knock up a quick set of survey questions and send them out to all your email contacts. Great? No!! – The biggest problem with surveys is when you know the response you are giving will not provide the answer that is being sought. Why? because the questioner has ill-conceived the question set from the start.

By the time the survey has gone out to how ever many email addresses can be begged, borrowed, or stolen, it’s too late – that brand of toothpaste is out of the tube and lying helpless on the side of the sink. A sparkling result is therefore unlikely, although there would be no denying that the student would have jumped through the data collection hoop.

So what’s the answer?
Having received so many ill conceived and ill considered surveys, I have no doubt in my mind that a face to face interview is the only way to accrue data that has meaning and value. There is no reason why the same (or similar) questions cannot be tabled, but the medium offers opportunity to discuss and illicit a response from the interviewee that has some currency. Add to the pot the respect the interviewer will gain as a result of making an effort to pioneer the great wide world. The value of meeting and interacting with experienced professionals, and making that contact that may prove to be so much more valuable in future years.

The downside is that data collection is reduced. One cannot possibly cover the same ground as an email. So find a subject that can accommodate selected data. Be original. Be personal. Get noticed.

Electronic communication may be of this century, but it sure has a long way to go to rival a real conversation.