On questionnaires and surveys: Yes, there’s a difference

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Posted Jun 29, 2022
Trevor Brown

Have you noticed that some people interchangeably use “survey” and “questionnaire”? Although this is common (even among academics) there is an essential difference between these two concepts. When it comes to market research, you need to know the correct terms to use the most appropriate methods for your particular goals. aytm offers a platform that allows you to perform real-time agile research, giving you the ability to quickly collect data from your target market that can empower insights-driven leadership in your company. With aytm, market research is simplified, streamlined, and effective.

What is a questionnaire?

Let’s start by defining our terms. Here’s a simple definition of a questionnaire: " A set of questions for obtaining statistically useful or personal information from individuals.” Most of us have filled out questionnaires in our lives, so this should be familiar to you. Questions on a questionnaire can be either qualitative or quantitative. Qualitative questions invite the respondent to share their thoughts and feelings about a particular topic. An example of this type of question is – “Describe how you feel when you think of [insert company name here].” Quantitative questions, on the other hand, consist of more specific questions that are often multiple-choice or scale-based. An example is, “On a scale of 1-5, what would you rate your experience with our product?” These questions are designed to elicit specific responses you can usedin quantitative analysis to draw certain conclusions. 

A questionnaire is just a collection of questions. They could be any kind of questions and could be being asked for any purpose. There are many examples of a questionnaire that you can probably think of on your own. Still, one example is a feedback questionnaire sent to you after an online order requesting a few minutes of your time to share your experiences with a particular seller. The purpose of a questionnaire is generally research, but not in every case. They are the tools through which you can reach market research objectives. A questionnaire can be used as part of a survey or another research methodology or project. It can even stand on its own. 

Some tips for designing a stellar questionnaire

One of the biggest tips for building a great questionnaire is to know your target audience. You need to know who this questionnaire is for. This can influence the design of the questions themselves. Simplicity is another road to success for a questionnaire. With any set of questions, ensuring that the language is direct and straightforward will increase the likelihood of participants taking their time and thoughtfully responding. This principle is also true with the length of the questionnaire. Some questionnaires are only two questions long, but limiting the length encourages participants to take their time and genuinely share their honest opinions in the research. You will get higher-quality data from your questionnaire when you keep things simple and short. 

It’s also vital to avoid emotive or non-neutral language in your questions. Inserting this kind of language can bias respondents and reduce the quality of the data you get from the research. If you’re questionnaire touches on personal issues, you should also provide an option for participants to skip responses. Overall, you’ll want to make sure that the design of the questionnaire leaves each participant with a positive experience. The questions should be well-written, and the overall questionnaire should be structured to make sense to the participants. Questionnaires can vary dramatically in length. If yours is above a specific size, it makes sense to let participants know how much time they need to commit to complete it. This will allow participants to set aside the time they need to complete it and get honest feedback instead of hasty responses. 

What is a survey?

Here’s a general survey definition – “an examination of opinions, behavior, etc., made by asking people questions.” It is a measuring tool like a thermometer or measuring tape, except that it is designed to measure the perceptions and actions of people in a target market. Surveys are used for a variety of purposes but are most frequently applied as a part of market research so that companies can get the pulse of their current and potential customers so that they can meet their demands and exceed their expectations. Surveys have existed for a very long time, and over that period, we've learned a lot about how to design surveys to collect the highest quality data. 

A survey consists of two parts, a questionnaire and the process of collecting, organizing, and analyzing the responses to those questions. The term survey includes creating a set of questions and the method used to distribute that questionnaire and the conversion of those responses into valuable data that can drive decision-making. Most questions in a survey are close-ended to gather quantitative data; however, there are almost always a few open-ended questions included. These days, most surveys are conducted online, making it easy for respondents to share their feedback from anywhere in the world. 

What is an example of a survey? 

One example of a survey could be a feedback survey looking at what current customers think of your company's customer support experience. Notice that the objective of a survey is broader than a questionnaire. A questionnaire is just a set of questions and is thus only concerned with your opinion. On the other hand, a survey seeks to understand how an entire group perceives something. In this example, a questionnaire would be created and sent out to previous customers. The surveyor would then collect their responses, analyzed, and conclusions would then be drawn from that data. 

How to do a survey the right way

Because the objective of a survey is broader than a questionnaire, designing a survey is a little different. The first thing you’ll want to do is define your goals. You’ve got to decide what you want to achieve with this research. As with the questionnaire, you’ll also want to identify your target market. When you craft your questions, you’ll want to follow all the rules we’ve discussed in terms of short, simple, and straight-to-the-point questions. 

Once you’ve got your questions, you’ll need to decide how to get these questions out to your target audience. aytm makes it easy to design and publish your own surveys using our agile research platform. Plus, with our diverse panel of over 100 million respondents, you can be confident that you will be able to reach your target audience. 

The best way to run your own survey

Instead of shelling out large amounts of cash on research programs that can take forever to deliver results, you should consider utilizing an agile research platform like aytm. The process couldn’t be easier. All you have to do is input a few characteristics to define your target market. Then, add your own custom questions and answers. After that, we’ll send your questions out and get the data back in no time at all. If you’re interested in learning more about DIY survey design, download our free guide to better survey design today! Or, sign up for a free account to get started right away.

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