Surveys are just one type of cross-sectional study but are treated differently because they are large and, for example, involve self-completed questionnaires; they often have problems associated with low response rates. Broadly speaking there are three main types of survey: self-completed; interviewer-assisted or completed; and those that require specialist examination by a clinical team. In a self-completed questionnaire survey, the types of questions asked and/or the responses required can only be of limited complexity as no direct assistance is given to the potential respondent except that provided on the questionnaire itself. In interviewer-administered or -assisted surveys, the investigator is part of the interview process and their role will be clearly defined by the research team. By its very nature a survey that requires specialist assessment of the individual participants will be expensive to conduct and may involve the participants attending special centres for examination, bringing logistical difficulties.


The type of survey chosen will depend on the primary research question in mind. This is clearly the prime focus for the research team at the design stage as it will have a major influence on the size and complexity of the survey undertaken.

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