Survey and questionnaire are two different words that are commonly alleged to be synonyms, and as such are used interchangeably. However, digging deeper into the meaning of these two words, we realize that although similar, they are not the same.

A lot of people, including professional researchers use them interchangeably when defining the tool used in collecting data. The main difference between a survey and a questionnaire is that the latter is a written set of questions, while the former includes both the set of questions (i.e. the questionnaire) and the process of collecting, aggregating, and analyzing the responses to those questions.

In other words, the questionnaire is a subset of the survey. Or better still, a survey is the superset of a questionnaire.

What is a Survey? 

A survey is a research technique that involves using questionnaires to collect data from a predefined group of respondents, and analyzing those responses to gain insights into the research topic. It usually consists of both open and closed-ended questions.

Closed-ended questions are however more common in surveys, but there are no restrictions on the type of data that can be collected using surveys. They are used for business, scientific and academic research purposes. 

Some of the things needed to carry out a survey are the audience, questions, survey logic, etc. These things should be predefined or available before beginning the survey.

survey-questionnaire-differences

What is a Questionnaire? 

A questionnaire is a research method that consists of a written set of questions to collect data from respondents. It also combines the use of both open-ended and closed-ended questions.

Developed in 1838, by the Statistical Society of London, it has since been used for collecting qualitative and quantitative data. These data can be used in different fields of research and business.

Questionnaires may or may not be implemented in the form of surveys—a survey will however always contain questionnaires. Some use of questionnaires includes customer satisfaction surveys, product research, company evaluation, competitive analysis, etc.

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Here are 15 Differences & Similarities between surveys and questionnaires 

  • Definitions

A questionnaire is a research method that consists of a written set of questions to collect data from respondents. While a survey is different because it is a research technique that involves using questionnaires to collect data from a predefined group of respondents, and analyzing those responses to gain insights into the research topic.

Both surveys and questionnaires contain a set of questions aiming to collect data from respondents. However, surveys go further to analyze the data collected to gain further insights.

  • Types

There are 2 main types of questionnaires, namely; structured and unstructured questionnaires. The structured questionnaire collects quantitative data, while the unstructured collects qualitative data. Surveys are of different types, depending on the chosen basis of classification. Some of the basis of classification for surveys are deployment methods, the frequency at which they are administered, random sample, self-selection, etc.

Since questionnaires are a part of surveys, surveys can also be classified based on their structure. 

  • Characteristics

Questionnaires have a standard and uniform structure which is why they are mostly used to collect demographic information. Surveys do not have a uniform structure. This is because they contain a group of questionnaires, where each questionnaire has a distinct structure. However, they both require a sample audience and a set of questions to be performed.

  • Questions

The questions in a questionnaire are mostly close-ended and rarely open-ended. This is because questionnaires are mostly used for exploratory research purposes, with no aim of getting detailed information.

Surveys, on the other hand, give equal preference to both close-ended and open-ended questions. The use case depends on the type of research that is being carried out.

survey-questionnaire-types

  • Responses

Since questionnaires are mostly close-ended, the responses are usually objective. Respondents do not have the opportunity to express emotions when giving responses. The responses from a survey are usually both objective and subjective. Respondents have the freedom to give subjective responses to open-ended questions, just as much as they give objective responses to close-ended questions.

Although not common, questionnaires may also contain subjective responses.

  • Use Case

There are limited use cases for questionnaires when they are not used as part of a survey. These use cases include building an email list, accepting payments or donations, or collecting personal accounts for a research project.

Surveys are a better option if you need feedback from respondents. It aggregates data from multiple respondents so that you can make broad conclusions on your research.

  • Examples

A simple example of a questionnaire is a form that asks people to choose an email preference. It contains close-ended questions for the respondents to choose an answer. 

A customer satisfaction survey is a common survey example that is used by businesses to get feedback from customers. A general customer satisfaction survey will contain at least 2 questionnaires.

The first questionnaire is a biodata, that asks for little information about the customer's identity. The second questionnaire takes information about how the customer feels about the service rendered.

  • Process

There process involved in carrying out surveys are divided into 2 phases. The first phase is the data collection phase while the second phase is the data analysis phase.

The process involved in the data collection phase of a survey is similar to that of the questionnaire. Since questionnaires are not used for data analysis, it does not involve the second phase.

survey-questionnaire-process

  • Data Analysis

In addition to data collection, a survey is used to analyze data and define trends. Questionnaires, on the other hand, is only used for collecting data. 

Although they are used to achieve different aims, they do have something in common which is data collection.

  • Results

The results of a questionnaire are usually exploratory as they do not give enough data about the topic of study. Surveys, on the other hand, give a detailed account or information about the research.

It goes further to process this information and arrive at a conclusion.  

  • Advantages

When carrying out exploratory research, questionnaires have and advantage over surveys. It is brief and precise, which is the kind of question requires for exploratory research. Surveys are a better option for carrying out descriptive research. It not only collects detailed information about the research but also studies trends and insights to inform better decision making.

  • Disadvantages

Questionnaires are usually less bulky than surveys, making it easier for respondents to respond to questionnaires. Surveys do, however, face the setback of having fewer responses than questionnaires.

This is due to it's more bulky nature which arises from the need to collect relevant data required for concluding. 

  • Questionnaire/Survey Tools

Surveys and questionnaires are carried out using similar tools. Some of the tools used for data collection are online forms, paper, phone calls, etc. However, surveys use additional tools to study trends and make future predictions.

  • Design

The design process of a questionnaire is usually less sophisticated. It is simple and can contain only 1 or 2 blocks.

Surveys contain several blocks that are usually well sectioned and organized to make it easier for both the respondent and the researcher to interact with. Some of the blocks of a survey include; introduction, screeners, body, demographics, etc.

  • Time and cost

Questionnaires are usually fast and cost-effective, a feature of exploratory research. It only collects a few relevant data, reducing the time spent on administering questions.

Surveys are usually time-consuming and more expensive than questionnaires. The process of getting descriptive data and its analysis require time and resources.

Tips for Creating a Perfect Survey

Embrace Anonymity

One of the best ways to get more responses when carrying out surveys is to keep the respondents anonymous. Most respondents are security conscious and wary about how their data is used which is why they will hesitate to fill any survey asking for their personal information.

In some other cases, they might have no problem with sharing some not so private information, but it may hinder them from giving proper responses. It is common knowledge that people are freer to talk when they are anonymous.

For example, preparing an employee satisfaction survey that takes employee names is a sure way to not get a good critique. Employees who are scared of losing their jobs would rather send praises than say the truth about how he/she feels about the employer. 

Keep it brief and simple

Surveys should be kept brief and concise to encourage your audience to respond to them. They shouldn't be too bulky and the grammar should be kept simple.

It is common for respondents to quickly scheme through surveys to the last page before responding to them. This act is just to check whether the survey is bulky or not.

If the respondent realizes that it is bulky, he or she may either ignore it or keep it for later which may never come. One other thing that may put a respondent off is the need to check a dictionary for the meaning of a word before moving on.

Make it flexible

Understandably, the survey may need to be a bit bulky when dealing with some topics. Therefore, it must be made flexible for the respondents so they don't abandon it.

An easy way to this is the "Save & Continue" feature on the Formplus Survey builder. This feature allows the respondents to save their progress and continue from where they stopped when filling out the survey.

It is also important to add a prompt in the survey to remind the respondents that they can always continue later if they feel tired while filling out the survey.

Be transparent

Respondents are usually more inclined to respond to surveys that are transparent about what you choose to use their data for. A background summary or brief information about the purpose of the survey on the website is a good method of transparency.

When customers know and are comfortable with what their data will be used for, they will want to respond.

online-questionnaire-survey

Tips for Creating a Perfect Questionnaire 

Choose the right audience

One of the most important things when creating questionnaires is choosing the right audience to respond to them. A company creating questionnaires to know how long tin of milk lasts a 3-month-old baby, for example, should send the questionnaire to nursing mothers.

Sending the questionnaires to pregnant women or women that have never had a baby is choosing the wrong audience for your brand.

Study your audience

Before creating a questionnaire, a researcher should study his or her audience to choose the right approach to asking questions. The older generation tends to be quite formal and won't pay much attention to questionnaires that in life buzzwords or slang.

The youngsters, on the other hand, will relate more with a playful/informal tone of voice when responding to questionnaires.

Create a shareable link

A shareable link is a surreal way of getting more people to easily access your questionnaires. There are different ways of promoting this link to give it as much publicity as possible.

A shareable link can be added to your website, social media pages, and promotional materials. You can also create a sharing option that allows the respondent to share the link with their contacts.

Don't Compel respondents to respond

An easy way to get respondents to put respondents off or have them give wrong responses is by compelling them. Things like compulsory questions should not be added to survey questionnaires.

E.g. What Gender are you?

  • Male
  • Female
  • Prefer not to answer.

The "prefer not to answer" option is a way out that tells respondents that they don't have to respond to the question if they don't want to. 

Choose the best delivery method

The world is becoming more digital and a paper-based questionnaire may not be the way to go at this point. A better way to give questionnaires will be through the web. 

This may however not be the case in some instances. If your target audience is offline, online questionnaires may not be the best option.

What is the Best Tool for Surveys or Questionnaires?

Formplus makes it easy for you to collect and analyze the data obtained from surveys or questionnaires. You can easily share your forms with your audience with a shareable link that is accessible on any internet-enabled device.

It doesn't matter what the survey is for, there are easy to use templates you can take advantage of. The most interesting part is that you can easily tweak these templates as you wish to depict your brand or purpose of the survey.

Register on Formplus in and have the best tool for carrying out surveys/questionnaires at your fingertips. 

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7 Top Online Surveys & Questionnaire Template to Use 

A demographic survey can be used to study different variables relating to particular demography of people. Formplus demographic survey template may be used to collect relevant data like age, gender, work, marital status, etc. that are relevant to your study or research.

Bullying is a common occurrence that happens in schools at every level. Do you want to solve the rising bullying activities in your schools or educational institutions? Then, you need a form template to collect necessary data about bullies in your school environment.

Get credible feedback from your former employees with this employee exit survey template from Formplus. This simple online form provides employees with the chance to answer in-depth questions confidentially so that you can know what they think about the company's culture, job, and supervisors.

Serve customers better by investigating how they feel about your product or service. Get important insights on things you should work on to better improve customer service. You can customize this customer satisfaction survey and tailor it specifically for your business.

Give students the chance to evaluate their teacher's performance in the classroom for better teaching and learning experiences. With this teacher evaluation survey template from Formplus, you can easily make sure the students get the best education. 

With a Course Evaluation form template, you can measure a student’s degree of understanding in a particular course. The feedback you will receive during this process will help you better understand your students and show you ways to better communicate with them. It assists in developing the right curriculum of study.

This restaurant satisfaction survey template is something you should consider if you own a restaurant. It helps you get feedback from customers on how to improve their experience.

Conclusion 

Survey and questionnaire are 2 different but similar data collection tools. They are both used in similar cases because a survey contains questionnaires.

It is important to understand the difference between surveys and questionnaires to make better decisions on which one to use when collecting data. Questionnaires are better used when the data is going to be aggregated to benefit the respondents, while surveys are a better option for research purposes.

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  • Formplus Blog
  • on 12 min read

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