A survey is any activity that collects information in an organized and methodical manner about characteristics of interest from some or all units of a population using well-defined concepts, methods and procedures, and compiles such information into a useful summary form. A survey usually begins with the need for information where no data – or insufficient data – exist.
A survey can be thought to consist of several interconnected steps, which include:
defining the objectives, selecting a survey frame, determining the sample design, designing the questionnaire, collecting and processing the data, analysing and disseminating the data and documenting the survey.
The life of a survey can be broken down into several phases. The first is the planning phase, which is followed by the design and development phase, and then the implementation phase. Finally, the entire survey process is reviewed and evaluated.
Data dissemination is the release of the survey data to users through various media, for example, through a press release, a television or radio interview, a telephone or facsimile response to a special request, a paper publication, electronic media including the Internet or a microdata file on a CD, etc.
Delivery and presentation of the final results is very important. It should be easy for the users to find, understand, use and interpret the survey results correctly. Results from the survey should be summarized and the strengths and weaknesses of the data indicated, with important details highlighted through a written report that includes tables and charts.