Surveys are a method used to collect information from a specific population. Surveys are used to gauge the level of public information about an issue and provide a 'snapshot' of attitudes and ideas at a particular time. They can be used to determine community attitudes or target a particular group.
Surveys can be used to collect broad general information from or about a large audience or specific information from targeted groups. Surveys can seek information that can be quantitative (facts and figures) and/or qualitative (opinions and values). Surveys can use questionnaires to collect information, and these can be delivered through face-to-face interviews, self-completion written forms, telephone surveys, or electronic surveys.
For a well-conducted survey using a large, random sample, surveys are usually high cost. Small-scale surveys using opportunistic sampling and volunteers can be relatively low cost, but may not produce results that can be generalised beyond the specific people sampled. Sampling so that you can generalize from your results to the general community, or a specific segment of the community, requires expert knowledge.
This page originally copied with permission from the Citizens Science Toolbox