Surveys are perhaps the most widely used method for primary data collection. A variety of different collection methods of research, including mail surveys, telephone surveys and face to face (in person), interviews, online surveys, and dot surveys play a vital role. Less formal methods of investigation may also include observation and informal interviews. The choice of research method to use depends on many factors, such as the number of respondents that the Surveyor wants, data collection time frame, the characteristics of the population under investigation, and of course your budget.
Below are just some of the advantages and disadvantages of different research methods. Mail surveys can prove to be an effective method in order to reach a large population at a low cost. When the surveys are run by marketing companies and universities, the goal is to reach a random sample of households in the area of interest (i.e., county, state, region), or to reach a targeted population of people (for example, people who held a state fishing license in a given year, or those who belong to an environmental organization).
But for small agricultural enterprises seeking more information about potential customers, a mailing list of households carried out using a local phone book or online resources such as Internet Yellow Pages (www.yellowpages.com) both of which are free. The survey is usually sent with a stamped return envelope so they can be returned at no cost to the individual.
A disadvantage of mail surveys is that response rates are generally low when there is only one piece of communication sent to the person to take up and complete the survey. So in an attempt to get more response rates, more than one piece of communication in the form of an advance notice that a survey is being conducted, a post card reminding him to complete it. This increases the cost of research, as well as time and money. Other disadvantages are the time lag that often occurs between the time you mailed a survey and when he returned, if returned at all, and the fact that sometimes the surveys are returned, but are too incomplete to be useful.
Telephone surveys are conducted by calling people and having to answer questions by phone. An advantage of the telephone survey over the mail survey is that the interviewer may encourage the person to complete the questionnaire and then analyze the responses immediately, those wishing to conduct market research on a small budget may find the wages paid to such interviewers unaffordable. As with mail surveys, researchers conducting a small farm with budgetary considerations, a list of people to the call can be made from a phone book or online directory.
Personal interviews with some of the same advantages and disadvantages of telephone surveys, have a positive side where a personal interview is an effective way to obtain complete investigations and responses can be analyzed immediately. On the downside, in-person interviews are expensive to implement, and some people may be intimidated by being contacted for an investigation or may not be willing to reveal some information about themselves to a stranger. But another potential advantage is that a very specific population can be targeted by in-person interviews. For example, if the survey interest is the people who shop in grocery stores or markets, such interviews may be conducted in front of, inside, or close to the store or market. In most cases, you must be authorized to enter the market, or to carry out such interviews.
Advantages and disadvantages of Internet surveys are a kind of hybrid of telephone, mail and in person surveys, even if they have their own characteristics as well. To begin, a survey by Internet only is useful if the population of interest has access to the Internet. Of course, the person conducting the survey should at least have little interest in Internet as well. Once this is obtained, it is the question of how they will contact the population of interest. Once this is established, the question of determining how to contact the population of interest. Some options available are to send postcards or letters inviting people to participate in the survey, or there are companies that specialize in Internet marketing (Survey Monkey, for example, services, and a series of studies and contact information of a random sampling or targeted individuals in the study).
Benefits of Internet surveys is that it can be completed more quickly than mail surveys, and depending on how the research is installed, can be less expensive to produce the results than other types of surveys. In addition, some surveys offer web hosting resources to analyze the data for the user, which makes the process easier for the experts who had no previous survey experience and strong skills in statistics.
The disadvantages include contacting those individuals in the target population, as well as having it completed by the individuals once they have been contacted. And as with other research methods, some people may be skeptical about providing sensitive information (such as annual household income, the amount of money spent on groceries, etc) via Internet.
Dot investigations or posters focus on only some important questions (Lev et al., 2004). This technique consists of only few questions (usually no more than four) will be displayed on easels in a public place like a farmers market. Participants indicate their responses with a round colored stickers (or points) in the columns that represent their response. For example, farmers market, a questionnaire item asking respondents to tell their residence area, which they would do by placing the sticker in appropriate class label. Dot studies are a viable alternative to traditional survey techniques like written questionnaires and oral interviews, and have been shown to increase response rates compared to alternative techniques. However, a significant negative point of these studies is that respondents can see the answers of other respondents provided and can be influenced by what they see (but there is also the argument that this trend can mimic the behavior of consumers in the real world such as fashion and impulse buying)
Informal Interviews and Observation
Informal interviews and observation may be a little 'less scientific that the composition of the research methods, but may be the right tool for some of the agricultural sector. An informal interview is to ask the same simple but specific questions for many people to get an idea of what people think. The observation consists of observing consumers and taking into account their behavior. Both of these can be especially useful for companies that market directly to customers, which can be used for both interview and observation. For example, activities that already grow organic produce, but are not certified because of the cost, you might ask current customers what they think of organic products and whether they would be willing to pay more for the assurance that the products are organic third shares. In the direction of observation, the operation can also discover how the same products that are certified organic are sold to other operations. Another example is an operation that plans to produce a new crop or product. Interviews can be used to determine what products customers want today have access to any observation can be used to determine which products are popular through other vendors.
Focus groups and pilot studies are often used by researchers to "test" the survey before it is distributed to the population of interest. This allows researchers to evaluate the questions in advance to see if they can be confusing, or malformed, or if respondents are going to find the structure too complicated to be studied. For reasons of time and money, friends, family members, employees, neighbors, etc., can also act as a focus group. But if this approach is used, it is important that the discussion group understands that their honest, unbiased opinion is needed to find the usefulness of the study. It is also important to remember that those involved in agriculture or agribusiness will have different reactions to those customers because they know more about agriculture and will therefore have a different set of perceptions and knowledge.
The questions that are used in the market research/survey are as important as the method of distribution of the surveys. Although it may be tempting to try to take this opportunity to ask survey respondents as many questions as possible, there is a point where additional survey questions will not contribute anything in addition to the survey results as respondents experience fatigue. In light of this, it is important to keep the survey simple and as brief as possible. It is also important to avoid language that could be interpreted differently by different people who have "generally" or "normal".
There are many ways to ask questions to respondents. Scientists have spent decades trying to determine the advantages and disadvantages of each type of question, and found that the best structure of a question depends on the information that the surveyor wants to achieve. Some form of questions commonly used is rating scales, multiple choice and open-ended.