Fact

This includes what is often termed 'classification data', i.e. facts about respondents that are used to describe them: demographic information such as age, gender, social class, geographic location, and so on. It also includes information relevant to the survey, such as ownership of a washing machine, garden, library ticket, credit card, etc. Facts may also refer to behaviour, 'Have you ever bought a book online?', 'Have you ever visited an art gallery?', and so on.

Factual information is relatively easy to ask and to answer, providing the respondent knows and can remember. To be most useful the questions need to be quite specific. For example, a publisher may be more interested in current online book buyers than knowing whether the individual has ever bought a book through any distribution channel. In this case the question would be, 'Have you bought any book online in the last month?' Or it may be that the real interest lies in people who buy books online for their own use rather than for someone else; 'Have you bought any book online in the last month for yourself?' then becomes the question, and so on until the question specifically asks for the information that is required.

Factual information can be described as 'hard' data, because it is data that can be relied upon: people are or are not in a particular category; possess or do not possess a particular item; have performed or have not performed a particular action. This gives reasonable quantitative estimates for the subject under study, and gives some bases for cross-tabulation of results. In the example, it was possible to look at the ages of online book buyers against non-book buyers, and be fairly confident that the findings were relevant, given that the sample was a good one.

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Online Survey Champion

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