Survey research is a major research method that is very useful tool in non- experimental descriptive method aim at giving a detail description of reality. It is a method by which researcher draw an inference from data collated from interview of a predetermined or sampled set of people or sets of people, from a large population, over a short or long period. The research is a quantitative research method that involve administration of questionnaire and the usage of statistical test to resolve or analysis the outcome data collated from the recovered questionnaire in order to make decision and the resulted conclusion. In survey research, the questionnaire can be administer directly through pen and paper, internet, electronic mail and other social media or it can be administered through a phone interview. Whatsoever the method employ in the administration of questionnaire, it must be systematic, easy to answer and design in a way that protect the privacy of the respondents involve in answering the questions of the interview. It is worthy of note that it is not all the administered questionnaire that will be recovered at the end of the specific research time or period.
Survey research, however, is very useful in the description of a large group of people or events that involve similar or different variables (dependent or independent). It gives detail about the metamorphosis of ideas, culture and civility, diagnosis, reactions or response of people to the trends of matters etc. over a determined period. Survey research is use to gather or collect data directly from the source by asking question through all the possible and available means, depends on the peculiarity of the population/society under study. Survey research is a useful method of conducting meaningful research in arts e.g. to monitor the cultural activities of a particular society. It is also use in social sciences e.g. to study the political terrain of a given population or their demographical activities. The management science researchers also employ survey as a means business management to gather information from the customers in order to help marketing procedure and process of a product. Researchers in sciences and applied sciences including medical studies as a means of justifying or disapprove an opinion or event.
In general, survey research is very reliable, cost effective, has generalizability effectiveness and very versatile in its approach. However, inflexibility and validity might pose major drawback to this method of research since the major source of collecting data is through questionnaire. It might sometime be difficult to ask beyond general questions or to correct mistakes after retrieval of the questionnaires.
There are two major types of survey research, namely; cross sectional survey and longitudinal survey. Each of survey research methods has its strength and weakness. However, both of the stated methods depends on the length of time and frequency of the administration of the survey questionnaires. Therefore, the choice of survey research method depends on some available variables such as length of the time available for the research, size of the targeted population, cultural orientation of the targeted population etc. and most importantly, the aim of the study. But, most researchers generally prefer longitudinal survey because it gives more precise results, especially for the study that involve a long period of time and large population, than cross sectional survey.
Cross sectional Survey Research
A cross sectional survey is a method apply to measure the outcome of the one-time study carried out at a particular or specified point specific or particular period over a short or limited period. It is use in draw out a conclusion from the measurement of the information or data obtained within that prescribed limited period. In addition, it gives detail features of place or samples under survey at that particular time. It is, therefore, a snapshot research, which is applicable in reporting the findings base on whatever fit into the frame of the research. It is sometime apply to judge a situation without taking the past or the future into consideration. Since our society is dynamic, most of the events or phenomenal are not stagnant, they may need a continuous assessment to justify the validity of the outcome of the research. The results from cross sectional survey therefore can be a justification of reality of the occurrence at the period of the survey but may not be valid for the extended period. The result of the outcome of the cross sectional research can only be valid if the examine phenomena would be static without any experience of metamorphosis over an uncountable futuristic period after the performance of the survey.
It is worth note to state that cross sectional survey is inexpensive because the conduction of the exercise requires a short time frame. The survey can also serve as a precursory means for designing a longitudinal survey study, because the result might give hints that may require further study. It may also be helpful in the planning of public health sector, monitoring and evaluation of the effect of new drugs or the prevalence of some communal diseases.
However, it has been established by different researchers that it is difficulty to derive casual relationships from cross sectional survey analysis since it entails a one-time measurement of survey exposure and resultant outcome
Longitudinal survey is an observational research that involve correlation of predetermined or different variables over a trend of time. The period entails to carry out this kind of survey research can be several months, years or even decades. The studies often results in giving detail description of an event, behavioural attitudes etc. of a place or an individual over a long period. However, it involves taking successive measurements of the parameters or variables on the same subjects or respondents, aimed to use for the study, at periodic intervals for a long period of time without researcher(s) having interference with their respondents or the result of the outcome. Longitudinal survey is an effective tool that can be used to establish the sequential trend of events of the target population. It enable the researchers to detect new developments or the transformational changes that may have occur over a period of times in the features, characteristics or characters of an individual or group of targeted population. With the longitudinal survey, due to its long period of study, there is likelihood of discovering the cause and effect relationships of the matter under study. The inference draw from longitudinal survey is always devoid of type one error.
Longitudinal surveys, for example, can be used to measure and monitor the causative element, the risk factors and the outcomes of the health effect of each particular disease. It is used to establish relationship between the levels of exposure to the incident causes of certain diseases and their subsequent health effects on human being or other subjects under study. It can therefore be useful in the clinical follow up and systematic establishment of the sickness progress, effect of the medical conditions and the progressive health improvement of patient during and after admiration of drugs by health professionals. Longitudinal survey is also useful in the determination of the safety or health hazards associated with some careers or professions. For example the immediate or/and accumulated effects of fire fumes on the firefighting officers can be identified, monitored and measured with the use of longitudinal survey.
However, there are three different ways by longitudinal survey can be conducted. They are trend survey, panel survey and cohort survey.