Survey Basics: Types of Surveys

Surveys might seem effortless, as if they take no time to create. If you’ve ever built a survey, you know that’s not the case.

Surveys, research, and data get complicated quickly. If you don’t work with research often or are new to it, it’s overwhelming.

The two instruments used to conduct surveys are questionnaires and interviews. Questionnaires are filled out alone and are typically pen to paper or online. Interviews are conducted person to person by a phone call, face-to-face, or virtually.

We use all different types of surveys as event planners. At Cvent CONNECT we pull immediate information from tons of different types of attendees. When choosing what type of survey fits your needs, think about what you need to know most from your respondents. Keep it simple and to the point.

Here is a quick cheat-sheet for understanding what the different types of surveys are: 

Cross-sectional Surveys

  • Study a single population or sample size and give a snapshot of opinion data.
  • Comprise the largest number of projects that are undertaken.

Longitudinal Surveys

  • Look at trends over time, and usually consist of cohorts or panel respondents.
  • Three types: trend, cohort, and panel.

Trend Studies

  • Focus on the same population of people and uses opinion poll surveys to look at their attitudes over time.
  • Uses other samples within the same population.

Cohort Research

  • Here the specific population gets studied repeatedly and centers around how given groups with a common characteristic view social phenomena over time.
  • A common cohort design uses a class of students as its population.
  • Example: The freshman class of 2018 completes a survey, and then the freshman class of 2019 at the same school completes the same survey the next year.

Panel Studies

  • Utilizes the same sample from the same population over time and uses a clinical study design.
  • These are more complicated but are the best design to find changes. You track opinions of the exact same respondents repeatedly and work with the same set.

A lot of time and effort goes into carefully wording each question. Format your questions without bias and use multiple choice answers to be clear and concise. Creating a biased survey will distort your results and hurt you more than it will help you.

Make your survey simple and easy for both yourself and the people filling it out. Don’t be overbearing with long, complicated, and confusing questions. Bad questions lead to survey abandonment and will hurt your results.

Knowing how to manipulate your survey is important for understanding your customers, whoever they may be. Events don’t stop when they’re over and surveys are an easy way to collect data that you can use later.

Stay away from difficult language, make your objectives clear and keep everything relevant. Your questions shouldn’t be like a crazy maze that people get lost in.


Caroline Howard

Written by Caroline Howard

Northern Virginia native turned southerner at The University of South Carolina. My skills include planning 4,000 attendee corporate events and then blogging about them. My friends always ask where I am, because when I'm not behind my laptop writing, I'm off exploring new places like Cuba and Spain.