The Difference Between a Survey and a Questionnaire

August 21, 2023
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

If you've ever had to gather information or conduct research, you may have come across the terms "survey" and "questionnaire." While they have similarities and are often used interchangeably, there’s a subtle yet significant difference between them.

Understanding this difference can help you choose the right tool for your needs. And choosing the right tool can have a world of impact on the success of your data collection.

So, in this blog post, we’ll explore the difference between a survey and a questionnaire, shedding light on their purposes, structures, and applications.

What is the difference between a questionnaire and a survey?

A survey is the process of collecting and analyzing data to answer some questions, spot trends, or establish relationships between variables. A questionnaire is a collection of questions also aimed at gathering data but with no deeper meaning or broader scope.

Basically, a “survey” is a process, while a “questionnaire” is a tool. A survey can include a questionnaire, but a questionnaire can never include a survey.

What is a survey?

A survey involves asking a group of people a series of questions to gain insights. That means that a survey can very well contain a questionnaire. But, the goal is to collect data from a sample of individuals, which can then be analyzed to draw conclusions about a larger group.

Surveys are widely used in various fields, such as market research and social sciences, to make informed decisions and understand public opinions. They can be conducted online, over the phone, or on paper, and they use questionnaires, polls, or even interviews to gather data.

Learn how to create a survey in a handful of easy steps!

What is a questionnaire?

A questionnaire can be a part or a section of a survey. It’s a set of structured questions designed to gather specific data from individuals. Questionnaires are used to collect both quantitative and qualitative data, depending on the nature of the questions.

Questionnaires can be in a printed document, an online form, or even a phone interview.

Questionnaires vs. surveys: advantages and disadvantages

Advantages and disadvantages of questionnaires

Questionnaires have several advantages. Firstly, it is a cost-effective method for data collection. This is because distributing and collecting questionnaires can be done electronically, reducing expenses compared to other data collection methods like interviews.

Secondly, anyone can fill out questionnaires anonymously. This property of questionnaires can encourage respondents to give honest and unbiased answers when surveying sensitive topics like personal habits or opinions on controversial issues.

However, questionnaires also have drawbacks. They rely on self-reporting, which may result in inaccuracies or misunderstandings. Further, questionnaire responses rarely represent a section or group of people. One questionnaire only provides information about one individual and not the rest.

Advantages and disadvantages of surveys

There are several advantages of a survey, too. Since a survey involves collecting data from a much bigger population sample, it can help you draw inferences, spot trends, or establish relationships between variables on a broad area or topic.

This data is also conclusive, quantitative, and qualitative. Surveys can help you make decisions, as they represent a group of people. Further, they can also help discover subtle attitude changes and make adjustments accordingly. For example, a customer satisfaction survey can give insights into increasing or decreasing satisfaction levels.

Some disadvantages of surveys are that they can get expensive to conduct depending on the tools used. For example, if a survey involves in-person interviews, the cost of conducting such a survey would be much higher than relying solely on questionnaires (with tools like Google Forms, survey creation becomes much easier, though).

Surveys must also be structured with questions based on research to draw successful conclusions, which may require experts. Another aspect of surveys is that they need more time because the data has to be analyzed after it has been collected.

Survey vs. questionnaire: which do I need?

So, a survey is the way to go if you want to gather information and then analyze it to understand trends or opinions.

On the other hand, a questionnaire is a perfect tool if you're looking for a straightforward way to collect information without needing to draw inferences.

For example, if you want to know what drives your customer’s preferences, you need to conduct a survey. But if you just want an employee's information for recordkeeping, you can just hand them a questionnaire.

Learn more about Google Forms research on the Form Publisher blog!

Online forms are a great help when it comes to both questionnaires and surveys! And when it comes to online form creation, there’s no better platform than Google Forms. Learn more about Google Forms and how to conduct research with Google Forms on the Form Publisher blog!

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