Survey methodology is representative of an applied field of statistics and is associated with data collection, specifically sampling techniques, opinion polls and questionnaires. Survey methodology details how data collection will be conducted in a study. When conducting a study, many important questions need to be answered before data can actually be gathered and it is a survey methodologist who addresses many of these concerns.
For one, addressing what type of sample is going to be collected is a critical concern. For example, is sampling going to be completely random across a population or will a specific technique be used, such as cluster sampling or stratified sampling? This would be an important question to consider before beginning to survey.
Then the mode of data collection is another important decision. For instance, will data be collected over the phone, online or using both sources? Studies are often done using specific resources and within a certain time frame. Thus, there may be limitations on the mode of sampling which can be implemented.
Opinion polls and questionnaires are sampling techniques which are often utilized when sampling is practiced on human populations. It is the job of survey methodologists to research the advantages and disadvantages of these methods in order to understand when they are effective to use and when they are not.
The end result of a statistical analysis can only be as good as the quality of the initial planning steps. One of these beginning planning steps is based on decisions regarding the survey methodology. There are discrete differences between the different types of survey techniques which can be used and deciding upon the wrong methodology will create an unsuccessful study and poor results. Therefore, it is critical not to underestimate the relevance of survey methodology to the overall statistical analysis process.