Stakeholder surveys are usually a quantitative method based on a questionnaire to gather information from various stakeholders selected using sampling techniques. If you want to know their views, knowledge, experience, and interests pertaining to a given programme, consultation or a project, a survey is a great place to start. But can they be qualitative?
What if you don't just want numbers and data but proof that you have addressed concerns? Can a survey gather such insights?
Studies such as Cresswell 2003 state that surveys provide 'a numeric description of trends'. And this is true. Most surveys will give you an answer which looks very pretty on a bar chart, which you can then use as a basis to generalize claims from across the population. We all see the newspaper headlines 'nation's favourite biscuit confirmed' and think 'well, no one asked me!'
Quantitative surveys absolutely have their place, but there is a way to make any survey qualitative.
If you think of a survey method you are probably thinking of three things - typically a questionnaire (paper-based), an online questionnaire - or interviews (when a researcher asks set questions.)
Quantitative research is essentially about numbers, qualitative is everything else, and if you want to capture that, then you absolutely need to start looking at gathering a set of qualitative surveys. These are surveys that allow open-ended results and feedback. It's about bringing the great ways of gathering qualitative data such as observation, focus groups, group interviews, autoethnographic methods into your survey.
How can you do it? Well, quantitive surveys are closed, or forced-choice that can be analyzed by statistics.
Qualitative surveys will be open-ended and have the aim of understanding the beliefs of the participants. These will have how and why questions, show examples, ask for feelings. They may ask for previous experiences or 'how would you feel if…'.
Qualitative surveys are perfect for research questions around the community and can really help you dig deeper - the only issue is managing to hold on to the rich data that you extract.
You may be interested in knowing that Tractivity lets you keep every single comment, question and reference made by any stakeholder in a survey, all in your Tractivity system.