Surveys are conducted in order to find out information about a population. But, you can discover other things while doing a survey including Ella Fitzgerald:
The first time I heard Ella singing I was in college, going from door to door conducting some survey for a sociology class. In one of the dorm rooms, music was playing: a woman’s voice that was so smooth, so smart, that I interrupted the sociological question-and-answer session to ask, “What is this?’’
It was Ella. The song was a dopey one: a coy ditty about gradually giving in to the pleading of an irresistibly seductive man – a lover, you think; but no, he turns out to be a guy selling magazine subscriptions. Ella made this unpromising material into something memorable: witty and delicious.
Sounds fortuitous. In addition to getting information about respondents, someone conducting a survey might learn things about themselves.
This also reminds me of the story Sudhir Venkatesh tells about getting into researching gangs that is told in Freakonomics: while conducting a survey in a Chicago housing project on the advice of his graduate school adviser, Venkatesh was kidnapped and held for several days. While usually not what you would want as a researcher, this helped Venkatesh earn the trust of the gang and he has gone on to write several books on the subject.
This makes me want to track down an article or a book where sociologists talk the interesting and strange things that happened to them while conducting surveys…