A survey typically consists of collecting data in a standardized form from a relatively large number of individuals over a short time frame. The design of a questionnaire can affect how people respond to questions and the response rate. A well-designed survey asks unambiguous questions that provide a valid measure of the research question. It is carried out on a large, representative sample and attains high response rates, which will enable researchers to generalise from the sample to the population with greater accuracy.
For international surveys it is also important that questions are translated carefully to produce functionally equivalent questionnaires, and that consistent methods of fieldwork and coding are used across the participant countries.
There are many methods used to conduct surveys, for example, by post, telephone or face to face interview. The method chosen depends on the resources and time available. The European Social Survey is an attitudinal survey asking quite personal questions about people's values and beliefs. For this reason, the ESS is, conducted where possible through face to face interviews where possible with each interview lasting about an hour. This allows the interviewer to clarify questions and the interviewee to expand their answers.