Questionnaire vs. Survey: 2 Key Differences

Learn the definitions of and differences between questionnaires and surveys.

If you’re using the terms “questionnaire” and “survey” interchangeably, you’re not alone. Most people think of them as synonyms. However, there are some key differences in questionnaires vs. surveys. Understanding the difference will empower you to write great surveys, and use the data you collect in an effective manner.

Read on to learn about the difference, and why it matters.

Surveys vs. questionnaires

The biggest difference between surveys and questionnaires is that a questionnaire includes any written set of questions. Surveys, on the other hand, include both the set of questions and the process itself: collecting and analyzing the responses to those questions.

In short, the questionnaire is the content of the survey, while a survey encompasses the content as well as your methodology and results.

What is a questionnaire?

Questionnaires are the series of questions you’ll ask your participants, such as “how would you describe your customer service experience?” or “how satisfied are you with our product?” This is an important component of any survey, but the questions themselves won’t provide the complete answers you need.

Questionnaires typically include open-ended or closed questions, and often a combination of both. They can collect quantitative data (measurable and often numerical) or qualitative data, which is typically written and needs further analysis.

Each individual result gives you information about that specific respondent. On their own, questionnaire responses won’t give you the broad, big-picture data you’ll need to guide company decisions or refine processes. For example, a questionnaire response can tell you how one participant rates your product’s usefulness—but as we know, one person isn’t a suitable sample size. You’ll need to collect more questionnaire responses, and analyze them, to find out what people think on a general level.

However, questionnaire responses are very helpful on their own, if you’re just trying to find out what individual people, like employees, think or need. For instance, employee questionnaires are useful on the individual level, while collecting and analyzing the data as a whole can be used for broader purposes.

What is a survey?

Surveys are questionnaires, plus the processes you use to analyze the data you collect. Surveys are often used in professional and academic contexts to achieve certain specific goals. For instance, companies might use surveys to get feedback from beta testers. Academics might use surveys to collect data and analyze it for a research project or article.

In short, surveys are strategic, and single answers never stand alone. Researchers collect larger reams of data, then use appropriate methods to analyze the overall patterns in the data. A medical research facility might ask study participants to be part of an experiment, then collect their answers to find out more about the participants’ experience afterward. Businesses might use surveys to find out how different customer groups behave, such as which demographic is most likely to buy their product and how they’ll use it.

How to organize a survey and write a questionnaire

Creating an effective survey is more complex than it initially appears. Here’s a quick guide to getting started.

Define your goals

When it’s time to create your own survey, it’s important to first define what you’re hoping to learn and how you’ll analyze that data. For example, sentiment analysis is a popular survey methodology. This type of analysis gathers written responses from respondents. Then AI software combs through the responses to find common phrases or words. Each word or phrase is assigned a sentiment score. This allows the surveyors to search for specific concepts or items, like “price,” and find out whether the overall sentiment is positive, neutral, or negative.

Choose a methodology

Once you define your goals, your next goal is to choose the right methodology. You may choose a qualitative or quantitative analysis, depending on the type of data you plan to gather. For instance, customer sentiment analysis is qualitative, focusing on the “why,” but quantitative analysis tries to identify the “what” and “who” with closed questions.

Write your questionnaire

Knowing your goals and methodology will help you write simple, clear questions to get the information you need. Generally speaking, use open-ended questions when you’re performing a qualitative survey. “What were your expectations of this product before you tried it?” is a good qualitative question, while “How satisfied were you with the product?” and a rating scale can be used in quantitative surveys.

Review your questionnaire

Next, have your team review the questionnaire to make sure that it’s as clear and concise as possible. More isn’t always better when it comes to questions. Respondents are far more likely to complete short, simple questionnaires than complicated or redundant 50-question versions. Get feedback to ensure that the questionnaire isn’t repetitive or too long. People love giving their opinions, but they’re more likely to give up on longer questions—or give unhelpful answers just to get it over with.

Decide on distribution

How do you plan to solicit responses for your survey? While academic research projects often collect answers from a pre-selected sample group, businesses tend to have larger potential respondent groups. Depending on the survey type, you may want to use email, pop-ups, social media, or other methods to get responses. Consider at which point the customer is most likely to respond, such as just after they’ve made a purchase, and adjust your plan.

Finally, consider whether you want or need to add incentives for responses. Completing surveys for discounts, swag, or other rewards can be a compelling way to get results.

Choose Voiceform for your surveys and questionnaires

Now that you understand the differences between questionnaires vs. surveys, it’s time to start collecting your data! Voiceform’s feature-rich survey platform makes it easier than ever to conduct surveys or questionnaires. Once you’ve created your questionnaire, our analytic tools do most of the heavy lifting for you. The voice, video, and text-based questions offer interactive data collection options, while the sharing tools make it simple to send a link, embed a widget, or email your survey to potential respondents. Book a demo today!

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