Geography Questionnaires
Joann Zadrozny
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0217


Geography prospered as a qualitative discipline until a paradigm shift known as the quantitative revolution in the 1940s and 1950s, in which geographers switched to objective, empirical, and scientific methods (such as closed-ended surveys) to explain, represent, and understand the human and physical world. Quantitative research explained phenomena and relationships with statistical methods. In the last few decades, however, a resurgence of qualitative methodology has been viewed as scientific to conduct research in the vast spectrum of geography. The four most basic types and commonly used methods of qualitative data are grouped into observations, interviews, documents, and audio-visual materials. With the acceptance of qualitative data as scientific in geography, a new methodology, mixed methods, has emerged adopted by many geography researchers to better explore and explain phenomena and relationships. This has led to the use of surveys and questionnaires as both a quantitative and qualitative data collection method and data analysis technique. Surveys and questionnaires are often used interchangeably in research designs and articles; however, there is a difference between the two. Surveys are the process of assessing a sample/population, while a questionnaire is the data collection instrument, or a standardized set of questions administered to a sample/population. A questionnaire can include close-ended questions that are statistically analyzed and reported in numerical form. Alternatively, it can include open-ended questions, which are then coded by the researcher. This extension of open-ended questions allows for supplement explanation or narratives to emerge that were once not associated with quantitative survey-based research. Through carefully crafted, reliable, and validated questionnaires and sampling procedures, a survey can represent basic characteristics and present findings of a population. Survey research is useful for eliciting people’s attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, and opinions about a range of geographic topics and research as presented in the following bibliography. Given the nature of geography, some articles could overlap subtopics, but they are kept to just one subtopic.

General Overviews

These textbooks provide the how-to on conducting survey research and designing questionnaires. Czaja and Blair 2005 and Fowler 1995 provide a complete guide in developing questionnaires and implement survey research. Creswell 2014 and Creswell and Plano Clark 2011 are the ultimate introductory guides in conducting mixed methods research across all fields. It is in mixed method research that questionnaires are most commonly used. Somekh and Lewin 2005 dedicates a chapter to a discussion of survey research within the field of the social sciences. Chapters that discuss questionnaires and survey design within geography research include McGuirk and O’Neill 2016, McLafferty 2010, and Secor 2010.

  • Creswell, J. W. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. 4th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2014.

    Creswell provides a straightforward explanation of how to conduct a survey that is perfect for undergraduates and beginning researchers. He provides a checklist to follow along with a detailed explanation of the steps. He also provides an example to show how to write it up in a methodology section of an article.

  • Creswell, J. W., and V. L. Plano Clark. Designing and Conducting Mixed Methods Research. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2011.

    Creswell and Plano Clark discuss how surveys and questionnaires are used in mixed methods research to collect and analyze data qualitatively and quantitatively. This book is the go-to guide on mixed methods research and outlines five different research designs that mix the two methodologies.

  • Czaja, R., and J. Blair. Designing Surveys. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2005.

    DOI: 10.4135/9781412983877

    Provides a complete guide to designing survey research across a range of disciplines, including geography. It begins with an overview of the different stages of survey research. Each chapter outlines specific aspects of survey research, including: the advantages and disadvantages of the different methods for data collection, how to design the questionnaire, pre-testing the questionnaire, sampling procedures, how to reduce error, and how to write up a report.

  • Fowler, F. J. Improving Survey Questions. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 1995.

    The focus of this book is on how to write survey questions. Fowler provides ways to design close-ended and open-ended questions. He shows how to write clear and explicit questions. A discussion of assessing validity and evaluation is also helpful.

  • McGuirk, P. M., and P. O’Neill. “Using Questionnaires in Qualitative Human Geography.” In Qualitative Research Methods in Human Geography. Edited by I. Hay, 246–273. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2016.

    A complete guide on the design, use, strengths and weaknesses, and analysis of questionnaires in qualitative research in human geography.

  • McLafferty, S. L. “Conduction Questionnaire Surveys.” In Key Methods in Geography. 2d ed. By S. L. McLafferty, 77–88. London: SAGE, 2010.

    Detailed discussion on how to deal with ethical issues, how to be prepared in the field and proper times to administer questionnaires, and how to access secondary data through regional or national surveys. The chapter by McLafferty is a concise and helpful guide on the different steps in survey research, starting with survey design, strategies for conducting surveys, and lastly, sampling, with examples from geographic research included.

  • Secor, A. J. “Social Surveys, Interviews, and Focus Groups.” In Research Methods in Geography: A Critical Introduction. Edited by B. Gomez and J. P. Jones III, 194–205. New York: John Wiley, 2010.

    In the chapter written by Anna J. Secor, she discusses how geographers rely on the use of “talking methods” (surveys, interviews, and focus groups) to help answer our research questions. She details why researchers conduct surveys and how to develop a strong questionnaire that is valid and reliable. Sampling procedures are addressed. She discusses what a sample question looks like and practical guidelines in creating a well-structed survey.

  • Somekh, B., and C. Lewin. Research Methods in the Social Sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2005.

    The chapter written by Lewin provides an in-depth discussion of survey research such as how to design a structured questionnaire to maximize respondents and ensure the instrument is reliable and valid. She divulges on what defines good questions for collecting data on facts, attitudes, and beliefs and the appropriate times to use open-ended or close-ended questions. A deep discussion of how statistical methods are used to describe the data.

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