Survey Vs Questionnaire – What’s the Difference?

It’s a common misconception that these two interactive content formats are interchangeable. While they share some similarities, there is a big difference between surveys and questionnaires. Continue reading to better understand when to create a survey and when to create a questionnaire.

Conducting a survey

What Is a Survey?

A survey is a set of questions designed to gather data from a predefined group of people for statistical analysis and/or forecasting. It is often used to identify behavior and trends.

What Is a Questionnaire?

A questionnaire is a list of questions designed to collect data about people you want to learn more about. It’s not meant to identify behavior or trends, just to help you get to know your audience. 

What’s the Difference Between Surveys and Questionnaires?

What's the difference between a survey and a questionnaire?

Ok, so we’ve covered the basics, let’s drill a little deeper into the differences between the two methods. This will make it easier for you to choose the right type for the goals you want to achieve.

Here’s the best way to think about a questionnaire: it’s a simple collection tool. A list of questions, online or in written form, created to gather information from respondents. There are no sample groups or segmentations involved. 

A survey, on the other hand, goes deeper in order to offer a broader conclusion. It’s more about analyzing trends and respondent behavior. And it’s based on a preselected group of people who represent a larger audience – a sample group.

Now that you understand the difference, let’s complicate things a little: there is such a thing as a survey questionnaire. It usually starts off a list of questions devised to learn more about individuals (i.e. a questionnaire). However, once a bulk of responses accumulates, they are compared in order to uncover trends or patterns (i.e. a survey). 

When to Use a Survey?

Use a survey when you want to collect data and opinions that represent a sector or a larger audience than you can reach. It can help you understand user behavior, identify gaps, and reach informed conclusions.

For example, let’s say you want to understand what online tool would best serve an audience of marketing content writers. In this case, a survey designed to identify their professional challenges and frustrations could allow you to quickly the necessary information quickly and build a tool that answers their most urgent needs.

There are many types of surveys that can help you learn more about your industry, audience, and business ecosystem.  Customer satisfaction surveys can help you refine your services and optimize your interface with your audience. Brand awareness surveys can help you understand where you stand in comparison to your competition. These are two examples of many.

Here’s a live example of a survey. Try it out:

Common types of survey questions

Survey questions fit into 14 general categories:

  • Open-ended questions
  • Closed-ended questions
  • Rating scale questions
  • Likert scale questions
  • Nominal questions
  • Demographic questions
  • Matrix table questions
  • Side-by-side matrix questions
  • Data reference questions
  • Choice model questions
  • Net promoter score questions
  • Picture choice questions
  • Image rating questions
  • Visual analog scale questions

Try to decide upfront which type (or types) of questions to use. It will help you build your survey effectively, both for you and for your audience.

Common examples of survey questions

There is an infinite number of questions you can ask. If you can dream it, you can use it to collect data from your audience.

To get you in the right frame of mind, here are some examples:

  • When was the last time you used (a specific product or service)?
  • What is your marital status?
  • What is your household income?
  • Which features and benefits do you most closely associate with our brand?
  • How likely are you to recommend the product or service to your closest friends?
  • How often do you purchase this type of product or service?
  • Do you make purchasing decisions based on social media content? 
  • Are you the primary decision-maker in your household for this type of purchase?
  • How do you best describe your work environment?
  • What would you like to see change within your specific department?

We hope these questions give you some inspiration. You can also use one of our many survey templates as a springboard. When you start building it remember that in order for it to work you need your respondents to answer the entire survey. Keep this in mind when choosing your questions and designing your question path. It’s best to keep it short and to start with the easier questions. Using friendly language and inviting images is also very helpful. To learn more about survey methodology take a look at our article about how to conduct a survey

When to Use a Questionnaire?

A questionnaire can be every bit as powerful as a survey when created and used in the right way.

Use it when your only goal is to collect information from a person or a group of people.

It may be helpful when:

  • A new employee joins your company
  • You sign up a new client
  • A customer joins your service 
  • A patient visits your clinic

Your questionnaire can be as long or as short as you like, but keep in mind that length does matter. The shorter the questionnaire, the greater the chance that your respondent will complete it.

Here’s a live example of a questionnaire. Try it out:

Common examples of Questionnaire Questions

There’s no shortage of sample questionnaire questions, but let’s focus on a scenario that most people have experienced recently.

Think back to your last doctor’s appointment. Did the receptionist ask you to fill out a questionnaire in the waiting room? How about online before you arrived at the clinic?

Questions may include:

  • Why are you here today?
  • Are you experiencing any pain?
  • Do you take any medication?
  • Have you recently thought about harming yourself or someone else?
  • Do you require assistance for substance abuse?
  • Did another physician refer you to us?
  • Do you have any allergies?
  • Have you had surgery in the past?
  • Who is your emergency contact?
  • Are you a parent?
  • Do you smoke or drink alcohol?
  • What pharmacy do you use?

The answers to these questions help the medical team better understand the finer details associated with your current level of health. They’re not asking these questions to look for a particular trend. They’re asking them to better understand your circumstances. 

But Does it Really Matter?

We’ve covered a lot, but there’s one last question we need to address: does it really matter which method of questioning you choose?

The short answer is simple: yes! If you don’t choose the right one, you could waste a lot of time collecting information that doesn’t move you any closer to your end goal.

Let’s go back to the example above when we talked about a patient questionnaire. You answered a variety of questions related to your health. Your doctor used it to get a better idea about your situation and nothing else.

However, consider a form that you filled out as part of a medical research study. Here, you’re moving away from a questionnaire and towards a survey. And that’s because the information you share will be reviewed, merged with answers from other patients, and analyzed.

If you’re simply collecting information, a questionnaire is the way to go. But if your intention is to analyze data and identify trends, a survey is your best choice.

The optimal structure and distribution method for each of these formats is also very different. Your questionnaire/survey design will influence response rate, engagement, and reliability.  

Conclusion

There’s a place for both questioning methods in your business. Both of them are extremely powerful when used in the appropriate manner, and very easy to create online.

Online surveys and questionnaires have become very popular in recent years because they are cost-effective and simple to build with online survey tools. Collecting survey responses and analyzing them is also easier when working online. 

Create Your Own Online Survey

Create a Survey

You can use our survey maker to create your own from scratch. Or use our many templates to get you started. Either way, you have everything you need to connect with your respondents and collect information that will benefit your business and your audience.

Survey Vs Questionnaire – What’s the Difference?
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