Field Research vs Experimental Research vs Survey Research

When gathering information, researchers utilize various data collection methods that they feel will yield the most accurate results. In fact, the use of multiple researches with an objective of understanding a phenomenon is most recommended by sociologists.  Some of the most outstanding methods of information collection include field, experimental and survey researches (Neuman & Robson, 2013). Field research refers to a form of data collection in which the researcher immerses him or herself into the subjects of research. The researcher has little influence and control over experiment conditions.

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The rationale is that field experiments take place in the natural setting of the sample and the researcher’s role is to observe and record the happenings (Silverman, 2011). Unlike field research, experimental research occurs in a ‘laboratory setting’ where the researcher can control the conditions and observe the effect. In most instances, the main objective and purposes of an experimental research is to explain events and natural phenomenon in which the cause precedes the effect (Neuman & Robson, 2013). Another method of data collection is survey research. It reflects a method of data collection in which the respondents are asked about their knowledge, beliefs, opinions and characteristics. The main purpose of a survey is to draw inferences about the feelings people attach to events, people, and other phenomenon. This paper compares and contrasts the features and characteristics of the aforementioned three research techniques.

Comparing and Contrasting Field, Experimental and Survey Research

At the outset, experimental research is built on the principles of positivism in such a way that it is more direct than other research techniques. In particular, experiments are more common in natural science fields such as chemistry and physics. The mechanics of experiment involves seven steps. The first step entails treatment or identification of the independent variable by changing the situation (Neuman & Robson, 2013). Treatment refers to a situation where the experimenter creates a situation and attempts to make modification or controls the variables. Researchers using this method create a situation in order to measure the changes in the independent variable. After this, researchers use survey questions to measure the degree of variation. The outcomes of the experiment become the dependent variables (Neuman & Robson, 2013).  These variables can be measured easily through observation, interviews, changes in psychological responses and behavior.

Before introduction of treatment, researchers conduct pretest as a way of predetermining or approximating the type of data to get. After measuring the dependent variable, the researchers might want to ascertain the consistency of the data collected (Neuman & Robson, 2013). As such, the conduct a posttest in which the measurement of the dependent variable is repeated. During the experiments, researchers divide the subjects into two groups. One of the groups that receive treatment is called the experimental group while the other that does not receive treatment is called the control group. Finally, the researcher conducts a random assignment.

Secondly, survey research involves a method of data collection whereby the researcher asks respondents questions about their feelings, characteristics, belief and opinions (Silverman, 2011). The researcher develops a hypotheses makes a decision on the type of survey to carry out. After, he or she writes the survey questions and decides on the response categories (Neuman & Robson, 2013). During a survey research, the researcher ought to make a plan of how to collect data and ensure that he or she conducts a pilot survey. After the pilot survey, the researcher makes a decision on the target population in addition to getting a sampling frame. During this stage, Neuman & Robson (2013) assert that it is upon the researcher to decide the size of the sample and actually select the sample. The researcher might use a variety of sampling methods such as random, cluster and systematic sampling to select the sample.

The next stage of survey research involves locating the respondents and conducting a careful interview (Neuman & Robson, 2013). It is important mention that the researcher should ensure that he or she records the data collected accurately and concisely without any subjectivity and bias. It is advisable to ensure that the data is safe by storing it into computers and other data storage devices. This should be done by rechecking all the data and performing a statistical analysis of the data (Neuman & Robson, 2013). After this stage, the author embarks on describing the methodology and the research design used during the survey in a report. The researcher should also present the finding s to other for critique and evaluation of the scientific applications of methods.

Field research reflects a form of data collection in which the researcher immerses him/herself in the natural setting of the respondents. The researcher has little control of the experiment conditions and may record data through direct and participant observation, focused group discussions (FGDs) and qualitative interviews (Given, 2008). The main purpose of the field research is to make inferences about the causal relationship of variables by observing them in their natural setting. It is important to mention that the researcher should be objective and avoid prejudice that may be caused by the context of the data collection when recording the observation (Neuman & Robson, 2013). This form of research is also instrumental in gathering objective and first-hand information about an event, occurrence or certain phenomenon. After collecting data, the researcher uses qualitative and quantitative methods of analyzing data and come up with the findings. The report is published and distributed for comparison in order to ascertain its consistency and reliability of informing others about a specific phenomenon (Mahoney & Goertz, 2006).

Advantages and disadvantages of Field, Experimental and Survey Research

At the outset, field research has a number of advantages. Specifically, researcher who uses direct observation enjoys the contextual data on natural setting of the subjects (Given, 2008). The researcher is also able to observe the patterns of interaction and the nature of social structures of a society. In case of qualitative interviews, the researcher is able to individual differences and may be in a position to capture other forms of communication such as body language and decode the meaning. However, Neuman & Robson (2013) argue that field research has many disadvantages. Primarily, this method of data collection is prone to subjectivity of the researcher. As the researcher continues to spend time with the subjects, his or her objectivity may decline. This implies that the data recorded may not reflect the phenomenon accurately. Besides, the researcher requires immense resources since he or she needs to spend substantial amount of time with the subjects of the research. Additionally, collecting data in a field research is always difficult task since the process of classifying is complicated due to individual differences and preferences (Mahoney & Goertz, 2006).

As elucidated by Hunter & Leahey (2008), various types of survey research have their advantages and disadvantages. In cases where the researcher uses mail and self administered questionnaire, the researcher gives the respondent direct questions which, after reading the instructions fill in the data. In fact, it is one of the cheapest methods of data collection. Besides, mailed questionnaires provide the respondent with enough to think through the questions before attempting to answer them. In the wake of digital revolution and internet uptake, web-based surveys are cheap and fast to analyze. They provide the respondent with an easier of answering questions with a sense of anonymity (Neuman & Robson, 2013). This has increased the confidence of respondents and people willing to answer questions. This similar for telephone interviews since majority of people can be accessed through the phone. It is also a cheap way of collecting data. Despite the above advantages of survey research, many disadvantages undermine their application in scientific research.  Survey research suffers from flaws ranging from inaccurate information presented by the respondents to bias and subjectivity of the researcher (Mahoney & Goertz, 2006). The questions may be closed, open or even spurious in association of variables. All these factors could affect the quality of research (Given, 2008).

On the other hand experiments have various advantages including the fact that the researcher has the control of the variables. The reason is that the researcher’s role involves manipulating the independent variables and inferring about causal relationships among the variables (Hunter & Leahey, 2008). In addition, experimental research yields better and more accurate results than most of other research techniques. This is because the researcher uses control groups and sets the strict experiment conditions. Besides, the results can be rechecked and be verified if they become inconsistent with the data collected.  Like all other methods, experimental research suffers from various flaws (Neuman & Robson, 2013). Experiment research cannot be conducted on situations, events and individuals. More often than not, researcher’s ethical position on issues may limit his ability to participate in some researches. It is imperative to mention that experiment research creates a situation that did not exist in real life. This makes the research to subject to human beliefs, attitudes and prejudice. This is in addition to human error that typifies all other techniques of research.

When is it appropriate to use Field, Experimental and Survey Research?

Hunter & Leahey (2008) articulate that researchers who want to collect data from the natural setting of the research subjects use field research. They remove all their biases and are ‘mere observers’ of the phenomenon under research. This is helpful for people in such disciplines as anthropology where they study the culture of human societies. Given (2008) posits that ethnographers also use field research to make inferences and findings about their area of study. Unlike ethnographer, many of the researchers may not have enough time and financial resources to carry out a field research. As such, surveys are easy to administer especially when the opinions of a specific target group can be captured through the internet, social media, mail and phone interviews (Neuman & Robson, 2013). This type of research is essential for business purposes especially when a company intend to make a market research before or after introducing a new product. Experimental research is helpful in natural sciences. The rationale is that they provide accurate and reliable results. In fact, doctors and other personnel in health sciences rely on the accuracy of the results and as such, they favor experiment research.

Similarities and Differences between Field, Experimental and Survey Research

The three research techniques have similarities and differences alike. For instance, field survey is similar to survey research given the fact the researcher might collect data through face-face interviews as well as qualitative interviews. However, they differ in the sense that field researcher has the least influence on the experiment conditions (Neuman & Robson, 2013). Although the survey researcher has influence of variables especially when designing the questionnaire questions, experiment researcher controls and manipulates the independent variables. It is important to mention all the above research techniques utilize qualitative and quantitative methods of analyzing data and findings.

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