Social surveys are used in sociological research as a research method, they collect standardised data about large numbers of people. The BCS (British Crime Survey) is a type of social survey involving 14,500 people aged 16 and over. The data that social surveys collect is usually in statistical form and the most practical way of collecting such data is through the use of questionnaires such as the BCS. Stephen Ackroyd and John Hughes distinguished three main types of surveys. These are factual surveys, attitude survey and explanatory survey. Willmott and Young used structural interviews, which is a form of questionnaire, in their survey of family life in London in 1970.
The BCS is a social survey used as a research method for sociologists. It is very useful as it covers a range of crimes with a large sample size. The BCS is a household survey which asks if anyone in their household had been the victim to crimes that were listed in a particular year.
The figures are collated in terms of household offences and personal offences. The BCS is much more useful than police recorded crimes, the BCS uncovered 11.6million offences compared to the police recorded crimes of 3.1million. Police do not record al the crimes reported to them as they may consider it as too trivial or inaccurate to warrant recording and taking action over. The BCS has been very useful for sociologists and has appeared to solve many problems aced by sociologists in gathering adequate and accurate data on the extent of crime, however there have been a number of problems. The BCS undercounts certain types of crime, such as fraud and corporate crime. The second criticism was that the BCS gave the impression that all individuals shared similar risks of being victims of crime.