Blog Question: What are appropriate purposes for surveys, how are subjects
selected, how is data collected and analyzed, and what kinds of
generalizations are possible?
The appropriate purposes for surveys are describing large groups or populations -- whether those populations are comprised of composition courses, English teachers, or students. Surveys help researchers manage large and otherwise unwieldy data. Subjects are selected by drawing from a sample and by considering the question of feasibility. This can be done by random sampling, quota sampling, stratified samples, or cluster samples. A researcher must be careful about drawing conclusions and applying them to results. Data is collected and analyzed based on the few features of interest to the researcher present among a large group. Researchers look at nominal data obtained through counting whatever feature is of interest, such as the number of comma splices or the number of part-time composition teachers. Researchers may also obtain results through the analysis of interval data, which is derived from percentage ratings among large groups. There is also the method of analysis characterized by rank order data. In rank order data analysis, results are based on hierarchically assigned ranks. Also, data analysis could be based on mean or the average number applied to whatever is being measured. Generalizations are more possible in sample surveys than they are in case studies. This is true because surveys provide a valuable method for deriving reliable, representative, descriptive data about large populations as the number being analyzed is actually reduced to a manageable size through sampling procedures.