Survey Research is no ELIXIR!!


One of the most intriguing aspect of my stint as a sales professional (selling online panels) has been rampant misconceptions amongst even the most senior level researchers. Although it is universally acknowledged that research is moving towards a digital platform from the traditional pen and paper model, it can also not be overlooked that the new technology is not a one stop shop solution.

Few interesting myths about survey research are:

Myth 1: It is DAMN FAST!!!

Reality: Agreed that it is comparatively faster than a Pen & Paper or Telephonic Interviewing but it does TAKES TIME to program a survey and collect data. As with all other technologies, survey research too is plagued by bugs and programming issues.

Many times the researcher has not built-in sufficient time lines in their projects due to this myth. Resulting in delayed timelines and creeping in of unwanted human errors.

Myth 2: It is CHEAP!!!

Reality: I have personally built online panels for some organizations and can state it confidently that it is a very HIGH COST incurring activity. A respondent recruitment may cost around upto USD 2.5 per respondent with 30%-40% of the respondents not even doing a double opt-in.

Additionally the panel attrition rates are sometimes as high as 15%-25% on a quarterly basis. To maintain a viable strength panel companies have to constantly update and recruit their panel base.

The biggest cost factor comes in the form of gifts and incentives which may go up to USD 50- USD 70 for a healthcare specialist.


Myth 3: It is a national representative panel.

Reality: Here comes the interesting part – what panel companies do is match the number of % of a age group with their panel for e.g. if NAT REP for Age 18-25 is 10%, the panel companies will ensure the same % or claim to be so.


People participating in survyes are a very niche group of internet savvy people with a particular set of demographic and psychological attributes.

Myth 4: It is NON-INTRUSIVE in nautre!!!

Reality: Theoretically the panel companies can claim that survey research is very non-intrusive in nature but ground realities are quite grim. The survey takers in internet population are very rare in numbers and therefore are bombarded with multiple survey participation requests.

I will primarily blame it on inexperienced project managers and “sitting on your head” clients who in the process of completing the surveys quickly send innumerable survey requests coupled with nagging reminders.

Companies / Brands have to be very cautious in case the survey has their logo/identity as it might leave a bad taste for the respondents towards them.

Myth 5: It removes the interviewer bias!!!

Reality: It is true on paper that survey removes the interviewer bias but a unique problem originates due to the fact that researchers do not formulate the questionnaire keeping in mind the online medium.

The questionnaire is primarily what used to be written for a pen & paper model where the respondents are guided by an interviewer in case of a query.

With the removal of an interviewer many a times it has been found that the respondent is clueless in case they come across doubts – resulting in either misunderstanding the essence of the question or the respondent leaving the survey abruptly.

Survey Research is the next step moving forward but relying on hearsay might result in undesirable results. A researcher has to fully understand survey research and not rely completely on the vendor panel company.

Now you have a choice. You can comment, share, or implement. I prefer if you implement, but I’ll appreciate all three – Akshay Kanyal