A Comparison of Survey Strategies of Inquiry with Experimental Strategies of Inquiry Survey and experimental strategies of inquiry are two similar but different methods of scientific research. Both surveys and experiments can employ similar approach (qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods) to collect data. Surveys and experimental strategies of inquiry also involve the analysis and interpretation of data in order to arrive at meaningful conclusions (Osuala, 2005). Like experiments, surveys draw these conclusions from a sample and generalise them to an entire population (Creswell, 2003).
However, there are key differences between survey and experimental strategies of inquiry. One factor that distinguishes surveys from experiments is the proportion of a given population than can be studied. While experiments normally investigate only a sample, in a type of survey called census, every element of the population is studied (Research Science, 2002). Surveys also differ from experimental inquiries in terms of purpose (Osuala, 2005). While surveys primarily tend to focus on determining the status of a given phenomenon, experiments tend to examine cause-and-effect relationships between different variables (Osuala, 2005).
Hence, experimental strategies, unlike surveys, tend to exercise special control over extraneous factors in order to reliably test the influence of a treatment on an outcome (Creswell, 2003). Surveys may therefore produce realistic results than experiments because they investigate subjects in their natural settings (Osuala, 2005). Moreover, surveys do not generally test specific hypothesis as in experiments (Osuala, 2005). Surveys rather tend to make inferences on a population after gathering and analyzing adequate amount of data from a sample (Osuala, 2005; Creswell, 2003).
It is therefore very effective to use surveys to identify research problems at the initial stages of a research project before conducting experiments to test specific aspects of the problem (Osuala, 2005).
Creswell, J. W. (2003). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed Methods Approaches (2nd ed. ). Thousand Oaks, London and New Delhi: SAGE Publications. Osuala, E. C. (2005). Introduction to Research Methodology (3rd ed. ). Onitsha: Africana First Publishers Limited. Research Science (2002). Surveys and Experiments. Retrieved on 28th July 2010 from www.ferris.edu.