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Guide to Statistics and Methods
January 29, 2020

Practical Guide to Survey Research

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Trauma, Critical Care, and Acute Care Surgery, Department of Surgery, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland
  • 2Aga Khan University School of Medicine, Karachi, Pakistan
  • 3Department of Emergency Medicine, Denver Health Medical Center, Denver, Colorado
  • 4School of Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Colorado, Aurora
  • 5Department of Epidemiology, Colorado School of Public Health, Aurora
JAMA Surg. 2020;155(4):351-352. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2019.4401

Surveys, and survey research, have become ubiquitous; it is likely that most of us receive at least 1 survey in our email daily. Owing to this popularity and a large variation in survey design quality, many may dismiss the value of survey research. Dismissing surveys is a mistake, as there are many questions that are only answered using this research approach.

Questions about knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs are best answered in useful ways through surveys. Surveys can also be useful to gather information on behaviors and practices, although this is dependent on the type of behavior or practice. Surveys are commonly used in medical education research, as approximately 50% of original medical education research is survey based.1 For sensitive subjects, an anonymous survey may be more likely to reveal truth than other methods that do not allow for anonymity. Quality of life, as well as other important patient-reported outcome measures, must also be ascertained by survey. A survey can also be a valuable design that allows comparison of actual practice, determined by direct observation, with practitioner beliefs determined by survey.

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