Authors: Don A. Dillman, Jolene D. Smith, and Leah Melani Christian
Publisher: Wiley – 499 pages
Book Review by: Deekay Daulat

Let us say you have a marketing research project and you want to get an idea, before its launch, of who and how many people will buy your new product?

How do you take a close look at various research and survey methods, decide which ones to use, design a study, ensure its validity and reliability, and maximize response rates?

That is where this book comes in. Written by three specialists in survey and research methodology, it covers many aspects of the process of finding reliable answers to your questions, including, very importantly, deciding what specific questions to ask, how exactly to word them, write them down, and what means to use to ask them.

Let us also say you want to use different means of getting answers to your questions, such as the Internet (website and emailing), direct mailing and telephone calls. You will use a mixed-mode survey design for your project.

The quality and quantity of answers you get to your questions will depend upon the types of questions you ask, who you ask these questions, and how you ask them. As has been said before, your output will be only as good as your input, so better prepare to improve your input by learning all relevant aspects of surveying and researching. Reading this book and making notes is a good start.

The book guides you through the whole survey-research process, including giving you some warning signals and getting you through your doubts and uncertainties about the project you have in your head or already in draft form on paper.

Among a range of benefits, the book provides you:

  • Direction on how to construct effective questionnaires, including considerations of layout
  • Effects of sponsorship on the response rates of surveys
  • Guidance on how to obtain high-quality feedback from electronic, mail, and other self-administrated surveys
  • How and when to use the Internet, mail, and telephone surveys to your maximum advantage
  • Proven techniques to increase response rates
  • Strategies and tactics for determining the needs of a given survey, how to design it, and how to effectively administer it

The coverage on the many aspects of surveys is extensive in this book. It includes, but is not limited to: a review of survey methodology and its current turbulent state; the tailored-design method; coverage and sampling; the basics of crafting good questions; constructing open and closed-ended questions; from questions to questionnaire; implementation procedures; when more than one survey mode is needed; longitudinal and Internet panel surveys; customer feedback surveys and alternative delivery technologies; effects of sponsorship and the data collection organization; surveying businesses and other establishments; and coping with uncertainty

This is a must-have book for those who want to conduct surveys and gather data for marketing purposes or for purely research reasons. Its three knowledgeable, experienced authors have done a great job of collecting, organizing and presenting the important material. The writing is clear and the concepts easy to comprehend.

Don A. Dillman, PhD, is Regents Professor and Thomas S. Foley Distinguished Professor of Government and Public Policy and is also on the faculty of the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center at the Department of Sociology at Washington State University.  He received the Roger Herriot Award for Innovation in Federal Statistics from the American Statistical Association and the Washington Statistical Society in 2000 and the American Association for Public Opinion Research Award in 2004 for exceptionally distinguished service to the profession.

Jolene D. Smyth, PhD, is an assistance professor in the Survey Research and Methodology Program and the Department of Sociology at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Her primary research interests include survey measurement and non-response. She has published several articles relevant to these topics in recent years and continues to explore them in her current research.

Leah Melani Christian, PhD, is a Research Associate at the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Her primary research interests include mixed-mode surveys, questionnaire design, and the impact of technology on survey research.