Social Surveys

According to the Encyclopedia of Research Design, a survey is a data collection method.  The instrument used to collect the data is called a questionnaire.

Choose the survey data collection method when it is the appropriate way to collect data that responds to your research questions.

Survey questions can be open-ended or closed-ended.  Quantitative data is obtained using closed-ended questions.  The qualitative data obtained from open-ended questions may be recoded so that it can be treated as quantitative data, or it can be thematically coded using methodologies such as modified grounded theory.

Questionnaires can also be used for scripted interviews.

A public opinion poll is a quick sampling used for decision making during an event such as a marketing promotion or a political campaign.

Start with these resources:


  • SAGE Research Methods
    This database contains encyclopedias, handbooks, and text books on survey methodology.



Journal Articles

Forza, C. (2002).  Survey research in operations management: a process‐based perspective.  International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 22 (2), 152-194.

Hulland, J., Baumgartner, H. & Smith, K. M. (2017).  Marketing survey research best practices: Evidence and recommendations from a review of JAMS articles.  Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.

Hunt, S., Sparkman, R., & Wilcox, J. (1982). The pretest in survey research: Issues and preliminary findings. Journal of Marketing Research, 19(2), 269-273.

Kelley, K., Clark, B., Brown, V. & Sitzia, J. (1999).  Good practice in the conduct and reporting of survey research.  International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 15(3), 261–266.

Krosnick, J. A. (1999).  Survey research.  Annual Review of Psychology 50, 537-567.

Pfleeger, S. L. & Kitchenham, B. A. (2001-2003).  Principles of survey Research.

Zhang, Y. (2000).  Using the Internet for survey research: A case study.  Journal of the American Society for Information Science 51, 57–68.

Some titles below discuss ways to conduct surveys within a particular discipline.  Others are examples of surveys that have been conducted within particular disciplines.

Applied Linguistics and Discourse Studies


Criminology, Risk, Security


Family Studies

Gender Studies

Health care

Indigenous studies


Public Administration

Sexuality Studies

Social Work


Youth, Adolescents

Public opinion polls are used to capture attitude, particularly for use in politics or marketing.  A key source is Gallup, but others exist.  See the guide on public opinion polls for more information.

For coverage in other Gallup products please see Public opinion polls -- Periodicals



More information

For more information, consult the help guide on public opinion polls, or the section on public opinion polls from the surveys section of the data guide.

A list of government surveys can be found on the Statistics Canada site.  Of potential interest are:

  • Aboriginal Peoples Survey (APS)
  • Annual Passenger Bus & Urban Transit Survey
  • Annual Retail Trade Survey
  • Annual Survey of Service Industries: Food Services and Drinking Places
  • Canadian Health Measures Survey
  • General Social Survey – Family (GSS)
  • Labour Force Survey [monthly]
  • Survey of Household Spending

The Census Program is a survey of the entire population of Canada.   The 2011 Census was canceled, but many responded voluntarily.  Both the survey instruments and analyzed data reports are available.  For more information about Census data, consult the Data "find" guide.

Analyses are released as reports which can be found in the Library Catalogue, in the Canadian Public Policy Collection, or in the Canadian Research Health Collection.  Here is a selection:

For more, try using the subject heading Canada -- Census in the library catalogue.

Software packages

Multiple software packages are available through Information Technology Services (ITS).  Free services:

  • Google Forms
    • Free service.
  • Survey Monkey
    • If your survey is 10 questions or less, the number of respondents is 100 or less, and you do not require any special flow through the survey, a free subscription is sufficient.   Carleton does not have a subscription.

Software package reviews

Content last reviewed: May 5, 2021