Research, Survey Examples, Tools, Types of Surveys

10 Different Types of Survey Methods + Pros & Cons

There are many reasons why surveys are important. Surveys help researchers find solutions, create discussions, and make decisions. They can also get to the bottom of the really important stuff, like, coffee or tea? Dogs or cats? Elvis or The Beatles? When it comes to finding the answers to these questions, there are 10 different types of survey methods to use.

Ten Different Types of Survey Methods

Different surveys serve different purposes, which is why there are a number of them to choose from. “What are the types of surveys I should use,” you ask? Here’s a look at the top ten types of survey methods researchers use today.

1. Interviews

Also known as in-person surveys or household surveys, this used to be one of the most popular types of survey to conduct. Researchers like them because they involve getting face-to-face with individuals. Of course, this method of surveying may seem antiquated when today we have online surveying at our fingertips. However, interviews still serve a purpose. 

Researchers conduct interviews when they want to discuss something personal with people. For example, they may have questions that may require extensive probing to uncover the truth. Sure, some interviewees may be more comfortable answering questions confidentially behind a keyboard. However, a skilled interviewer is able to put them at ease and get genuine responses. They can often go deeper than you may be able to using other surveying methods. 

Often, in-person interviews are recorded on camera. This way, an expert can review them afterward. They do this to determine if the answers given may be false based on an interviewee’s change in tone. A change in facial expressions and body movements may also be a signal they pick up on. 

2. Focus Groups

These types of surveys are conducted in person as well. However, focus groups involve a number of people rather than just one individual. The group is generally small but demographically diverse and led by a moderator. The focus group may be sampling new products, or to have a discussion around a particular topic, often a hot-button one. 

The purpose of a focus group survey is often to gauge people’s reaction to a product in a group setting or to get people talking, interacting—and yes, arguing—with the moderator taking notes on the group’s behavior and attitudes. This is often the most expensive survey method as a trained moderator must be paid. In addition, locations must be secured, often in various cities, and participants must be heavily incentivized to show up. Gift cards in the $75-100 range for each survey participant are the norm.   

3. Panel Sampling

Recruiting survey-takers from a panel maintained by a research company is a surefire way to get respondents. Why? Because people have specifically signed up to take them. The benefit of these types of surveys for research, of course, is there you can be assured responses. In addition, you can filter respondents by a variety of criteria to be sure you’re speaking with your target audience.

The downside is data quality. These individuals get survey offers frequently. So, they may rush through them to get their inventive and move on to the next one. In addition, if you’re constantly tapping into the same people from the same panel, are you truly getting a representative sample?

4. Telephone Surveys

Most telephone survey research types are conducted through random digit dialing (RDD). RDD can reach both listed and unlisted numbers, improving sampling accuracy. Surveys are conducted by interviewers through computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) software. CATI displays the questionnaire to the interviewer with a rotation of questions.  

Telephone surveys started in the 1940s. In fact, in a recent blog, we recounted how the predictions for the 1948 presidential election were completely botched because of sampling bias in telephone surveys. Rising in popularity in the late 50s and early 60s when the telephone became common in most American households, telephone surveys are no longer a very popular method of conducting a survey. Why? Because many people refuse to take telephone surveys or simply are not answering calls from a number they don’t recognize.

5. Post-Call Surveys

If a telephone survey is going to be conducted, today it is usually a post-call survey. This is often accomplished through IVR, or interactive voice response. IVR means there is no interviewer involved. Instead, customers record answers to pre-recorded questions using numbers on their touch-tone keypads. If a question is open-ended, the interviewee can respond by speaking and the system records the answer. IVR surveys are often deployed to measure how a customer feels about a service they just received. For example, after calling your bank, you may be asked to stay on the line to answer a series of questions about your experience.

Most post-call surveys are either NPS surveys or customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys. The former asks the customer “How likely are you to recommend our organization to a friend or family based on your most recent interaction?” while the CSAT survey asks customers “How satisfied are you with the results of your most recent interaction?”. NPS survey results reflect how the customer feels about the brand, while CSAT surveys are all about individual agent and contact center performance.  

6. Mail-in Surveys

These are delivered right to respondents’ doorsteps! Mail surveys were frequently used before the advent of the internet when respondents were spread out geographically and budgets were modest. After all, mail-in surveys didn’t require much cost other than the postage. 

So are mail-in surveys going the way of the dinosaur? Not necessarily. They are still occasionally more valuable compared to different methods of surveying. Because they are going to a specific name and home address, they often feel more personalized. This personalization can prompt the recipient to complete the survey. 

They’re also good for surveys of significant length. Most people have short attention spans, and won’t spend more than a few minutes on the phone or filling out an online survey. At least, not without an incentive! However, with a mail-in survey, the person can complete it at their leisure. They can fill out some of it, set it aside, and then come back to it later. This gives mail-in surveys a relatively high response rate.

7. Kiosk Surveys

These surveys happen on a computer screen at a physical location. You’ve probably seen them popping up in stores, hotel lobbies, hospitals, and office spaces. These days, they’re just about anywhere a researcher or marketer wants to collect data from customers or passers-by. Kiosk surveys provide immediate feedback following a purchase or an interaction. They collect responses while the experience is still fresh in the respondent’s mind. This makes their judgment more trustworthy. Below is an example of a SurveyLegend kiosk survey used at McDonald’s. The kiosk survey collects information, thanks the respondent for their feedback, and then resets for the next customer. Read how to create your own kiosk survey here.

kiosk mode

8. Online Surveys

Online surveys are one of the most effective surveying methods. They can be used by anyone for just about anything, and are easily customized for a particular audience. There are many types of online surveys. You can email them directly to people, house them on a website, or even advertise them through Google Search. The internet also makes it very easy to reach a very broad audience. It also makes it just as easy to reach only a handful of people. That’s been very beneficial for companies that also want international responses. 

SurveyLegend offers dozens of different types of online survey questions, which we explore in our blog 12 Different Types of Survey Questions and When to Use Them (with Examples).

Types of Questions on Surveys

9. Pop-up Surveys

A pop-up survey is a feedback form that pops up on a website or app. Although the main window a person is reading on their screen remains visible, it is temporarily disabled until a user interacts with the pop-up, either agreeing to leave feedback or closing out of it. The survey itself is typically about the company whose site or app the user is currently visiting (as opposed to an intercept survey, which is an invitation to take a survey hosted on a different site).

A pop-up survey attempts to grab website visitors’ attention in a variety of ways, popping up in the middle of the screen, moving in from the side, or covering the entire screen. While they can be intrusive, they also have many benefits. Read about the benefits of pop-up surveys here.

10. Mobile Surveys

Mobile traffic has now overtaken desktop computers as the most used device for accessing the internet, with more than 54% of the share. But don’t fret – you don’t have to create an entirely new survey to reach people on their phones or tablets. Online poll makers like SurveyLegend are responsive, so when you create a desktop version of a survey, it automatically becomes mobile-friendly. The survey renders, or displays, on any device or screen regardless of size, with elements on the page automatically rearranging themselves, shrinking, or expanding as necessary. Learn more about our responsive surveys.

Online Survey Usage

At one time, there was concern that online surveys had an age bias. However, today there is a much better balance between age groups using the internet. According to Statista, the share of adults in the United States using the internet in 2019 are as follows:

  • 18-29 years old 100%
  • 30-49 years old 97%
  • 50-60 years old 88%

That’s not all. People can take online surveys just about anywhere thanks to mobile devices. The use of these devices across age groups is balancing out as well. Data shows that in 2018, the use of a smartphone by age group was as follows:

  • 18-29 years old 96%
  • 30-49 years old 92%
  • 50-60 years old 79%

With more and more people accessing the internet through their mobile devices, now you can reach teens while they’re between classes and adults during their subway commute to work. Can’t say that for those other types of surveys!

Online surveys are also extremely cost-efficient. You don’t have to spend money on paper, printing, postage, or an interviewer. This significantly reduces set-up and administration costs. This also allows researchers and companies to send out a survey very expeditiously. Additionally, many online survey tools provide in-depth analysis of survey data. This saves you from having to spend money on further research once the survey is complete. 


Researchers have their pick of options when it’s time to survey people. Which method you choose may depend upon cost, reach, and the types of questions.

Now, you may be wondering, “Where can I make free surveys?” You can get started with free online surveys using SurveyLegend! Here are a few things that make SurveyLegend the ideal choice for different types of surveys for research (or for fun).

  • When it comes to surveys, brief is best to keep respondents attention. So, SurveyLegend automatically collects some data, such as the participant’s location, reducing the number of questions you have to ask.
  • People like eye candy and many surveys are just plain dull. SurveyLegend offers beautifully rendered pre-designed surveys that will get your participant’s attention – and keep it through to completion!
  • Today, most people take surveys on mobile devices. Often surveys desktop surveys don’t translate well, resulting in a high drop-off rate. SurveyLegend’s designs are responsive, automatically adjusting to any screen size.

What’s your favorite method of surveying people? (Hey… that’s a good topic for a survey!) Sound off in the comments!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the different types of survey methods?

The 10 most common survey methods are online surveys, in-person interviews, focus groups, panel sampling, telephone surveys, post-call surveys, mail-in surveys, pop-up surveys, mobile surveys, and kiosk surveys.

What are the benefits of an online survey?

Benefits of online surveys include their ability to reach a broad audience and that they are relatively inexpensive.

What is a kiosk survey?

Kiosk surveys are surveys on a computer screen at the point of sale.

What is a focus group?

A focus group is an in-person interview or survey involving a group of people rather than just one individual. The group is generally small but demographically diverse, and led by a moderator. 

About the Author
Born entrepreneur, passionate leader, motivator, great love for UI & UX design, strong believer in "less is more”. Big advocate of bootstrapping. BS in Logistics Service Management. I don't create company environments, I create family and team environments.