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  • 00:00

    [MUSIC PLAYING]Hi, I'm Patrick Sturgis, and I'm Professorof Research Methods at the University of Southampton.Survey methods is the study of populationsby means of drawing samples from populations.

  • 00:24

    And populations can be very broadly defined.We tend to think of populations in termsof the population of people in a country,but it could be the population of fishin the sea, population of trees in a wood,pebbles on a beach, anything.But the big key principle is that wecan draw smaller subgroups from the total population, whichare then easier and more cost-effective to you measure.

  • 00:52

    And we can then make what we call inferences.We can talk about the characteristicsof the whole population just on the basis of this smallersample.So that's the kind of the key idea behind survey research.And the history of survey research goes back a long way.If you think of the Bible, Jesus was on his way,in his mother's tummy, to be measured as part of a census.

  • 01:19

    So if you like the idea of measuring populationssystematically counting-- and usuallyfor the purposes of taxation-- goes back a long, long way,even before the time of Jesus.But the more modern-- how we thinkof surveys in the modern era probablycan be traced to the sort of mid-late 19th century, whena lot of people were becoming interested,for a variety of reasons, in issues of poverty and equalityand so on.

  • 01:49

    There was a lot of concern with the situationof the working classes-- particular in Britain,actually.And there were people like Charles Booth, SeebohmRowntree, who were kind of dissatisfied with whatyou'd kind of think of as anecdotes about the poorand so on.And so what Booth, in particular, set out to dowas to go out and actually make systematic measurementson whole tracts of London.

  • 02:18

    And this is what he did.He sent out interviewers to knock on doors,ask people questions, and then recall this all systematicallyand produce these wonderful maps that you can stillsee in the British Library, political, economic, science.So these are kind of the pioneers, startedsystematically measuring things that characterized populations.

  • 02:41

    And then, following that sort of early development,there was growing interest-- again, nowmoving over to the US particularly--in measuring audience perceptions of radio shows,of TV shows, cinema, and so on.Because, of course, there's an advertising premiumfor getting audiences, getting particularly wealthy audiences,and so on.

  • 03:08

    So this became more and more important to understandwho was listening and what they'repaying attention to-- and so development furtherof polling methods.And this-- in the early days-- was quite rudimentary in termsof how we would do surveys now.But the-- probably one of the most important developmentswas by a chap called George Gallup, who still has a pollingcompany named after him now.

  • 03:40

    And he very famously got the election forecast rightin the 1936, presidential election between the Landonand Roosevelt, where a very successful, at the time,magazine, called The Literary Digest had 13 million readers,and it sent out cards asking them to say whothey were going to vote for.

  • 04:06

    And they called the election heavily in favor of Landon.And Gallop, using a more systematic methodof drawing a small sample, but one which kind of closelymatches the population, called it for Roosevelt. And the restis history.That was a very clear, prominent exampleabout how it's not so much the size of the sample,it's how well it matches the population.

  • 04:33

    And so those were some of the key early developments.Well, if your target population is pebbles on the beach,it's very easy.Because pebbles on the beach don'tsay no when you pick them up-- well, not in my experience,anyway.But where it's much harder is in the real world, whenyour sample is of human beings, and they're busy,they're not in, they've got better things to do.

  • 04:57

    And so you do not get everyone who should be in the sampleto give you an interview.So non-response is there a particular threatto being able to make accurate inferences.I actually am quite an advocate of notrushing into doing your own data collection as the first thingthat you do, because I think you can learn a lot about howto do surveys, how not to do surveys,by looking at surveys that have already been done and doneto a high quality.

  • 05:32

    So I think that's one of the thingsthat I would advise students to dowho are interested in doing survey research would be,rather than rushing out-- as I often see students do,sort of write the questionnaire and send it outas quickly as possible-- is to spend time workingwith an existing survey, looking at the documentation.And it might sound a little boring,but it's certainly good preparationif you are going to go and do your own data collection.

  • 05:59

    So what kind of surveys would yousuggest people take a look at?Can you give--Well, I mean, surveys are quite country-specific, right,in terms of how we draw samples.I was talking earlier about drawinga random sample of people from the whole population.Now, how do you do that?

  • 06:20

    Well, in some countries you've got lists of every individual.You've got a population register.We don't have that in this country.We have a list of addresses that the post office puts lettersthrough the mailboxes of.So we need to draw our samples differently,and that tends to be true in different countries.

  • 06:41

    So what I say is really based on what you are doing in the UK,and most of the big surveys will be done, broadly,along the same procedures, in drawing the sample broadlyin the same way.So you could go to the UK Data Serviceand download a survey data set and all the documentation,and you'd probably get it a good ideaof how to do a survey to high standard.

  • 07:13

    I think, having said that, there aresurveys that perhaps have more engaging content than others.You might be more interested in something like the BritishSocial Attitudes survey, which asksa random sample of the British populationtheir views about kind of contemporary issuesand questions that are kind of political controversy,like immigration and attitutes to gay and lesbian peopleand so on, how that is changing over time.

  • 07:43

    So I think a lot of students, especially in social sciences,would find that particular survey quite interesting.And, of course, many others.

Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Publication Year: 2015

Video Type:Interview

Methods: Survey research, Polling, Sampling

Keywords: accuracy; audiences; censuses; population; presidential election of 1936; presidential elections ... Show More

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Professor Patrick Sturgis discusses survey methods and research. Survey methods study populations by drawing samples from the whole. Populations can be very broadly defined. Sturgis says that using a systematic method of drawing a small sample can be very effective. It is not the size of sample that matters; it is how well the sample matches the population.

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An Introduction to Survey Research Methods

Professor Patrick Sturgis discusses survey methods and research. Survey methods study populations by drawing samples from the whole. Populations can be very broadly defined. Sturgis says that using a systematic method of drawing a small sample can be very effective. It is not the size of sample that matters; it is how well the sample matches the population.

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