Survey vs. Questionnaire: What Are the Differences?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published March 25, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Surveys and questionnaires are important for many aspects of a company, both inside and outside of production teams. While a survey can help a company learn more about its products from its customers' perspective, a questionnaire can help it learn about its employees and any feedback they may have about a product. Understanding how surveys and questionnaires compare can help you better use these tools to improve your research processes. In this article, we review what a survey and questionnaire are and the many similarities and differences between the two.

What is a survey?

A survey is a combination of questions, processes and methodologies that help departments and individuals analyze data about specific subjects, such as people, products or services. A survey usually involves questionnaires to gather data, but those questions are only a small part of a survey. It involves many other processes, such as interpreting the data and using it to reach conclusions about the subject.

Students or professionals use surveys for academic or business purposes as strategic methods of research that can provide them with insights concerning a product, topic or practice. Surveys involve the collection of data from many sources and the evaluation and interpretation of that data to reach a conclusion concerning the question it asks.

Related: How To Write a Survey: Steps and Tips

What is a questionnaire?

A questionnaire is a set of questions participants of a research project answer. They can be for a survey or individual use, such as medical questionnaires or interview questionnaires. The purpose of a questionnaire is to gather data from an individual, and it can include open-ended questions, closed-ended questions or a combination of the two.

As participants answer the questions, they give researchers quantitative or qualitative data. Quantitative data is numerical and measurable, while qualitative data is nonnumerical, written information that researchers can analyze further. Individual results from a questionnaire tell researchers about one participant, which makes it different from a survey that helps produce studies concerning multiple subjects.

Related: 80 Questions To Include on Your Next Customer Survey

Survey vs. questionnaire

There are many differences between a survey and a questionnaire, which include:

Surveys have a broader focus

If researchers want to evaluate a group, they can use surveys to gain insights from multiple people. It takes the data from many individual questionnaire responses and organizes it to help professionals make wide-ranging conclusions from the group of responses. Businesses can use surveys to learn about consumer behavior, and doctors may use them for medical research.

Similarly, questionnaires help professionals collect data about a specific topic. But instead of using the aggregate data, a questionnaire's value is in each response. The results of a questionnaire provide information about only that one participant, and researchers don't compare result groups to each other as they do with surveys. For example, sales professionals can use questionnaires to help determine the needs of each of their clients.

Related: Survey Templates and How To Use Them Effectively

Surveys have more requirements

A questionnaire is a set of questions a person or group of people answer, and there are no other technical requirements for a questionnaire to be valid. Questionnaires can be completely independent of surveys as question sheets to people asking about a business, product or service. To create a survey, a researcher or research group often includes at least one questionnaire to gather data. They do this to ask a group questions from which they can obtain and interpret data. Using this data to analyze and develop conclusions is necessary to make a survey successful.

Questionnaires take less time

Surveys involve multiple processes, including questionnaires, evaluating answers and translating answers into data for researchers to use. Depending on how many people the researchers want to evaluate and how detailed the survey is, can take months to complete. Because questionnaires typically are simpler, more focused and require no data analysis, they take much less time for professionals to complete.

Related: How To Write a Survey That Works for You: Tips for Success

Similarities between surveys and questionnaires

There are many similarities between surveys and questionnaires, including :

Both have value in professional settings

Researchers can use surveys and questionnaires to evaluate customers and employees. For a survey, researchers may use them to evaluate how employees feel about a new company policy. They may also use surveys to evaluate how satisfied customers are with their product or service. For questionnaires, professionals can use questionnaires to evaluate a customer individually and get quicker feedback. For example, a questionnaire in the medical field can include mental health evaluations and yearly physical questionnaires, while a survey can help determine overall satisfaction with a specific treatment option.

Both evaluate answers

Questionnaires and surveys help researchers understand the preferences, wants or needs of those evaluated. While both surveys and questionnaires have different purposes and applications, they both evaluate the answers of people about a specific topic. Questionnaires may evaluate on a short-term basis, such as for employee preferences on what lunch they should use for a meeting next week. Surveys can use answers differently, such as for ongoing research concerning customers' satisfaction with a product.

Both involve a range of questions

Because surveys usually include questionnaires to gather data, both methods use a range of questions in their processes. Either can use multiple-choice, short-answer or calculation-based questions. Other questions they include involve open- or closed-ended questions and ones that require long explanations to answer. While surveys may use more questions than questionnaires, they may have similar lengths in question count and format. Questions in a survey and individual questionnaires may often be the same if they concern the same research topics.

Both use digital mediums

Both questionnaires and surveys may use digital mediums to consult individuals. Because questionnaires comprise one set of questions for one person, they may have a higher likelihood of being on paper as a form, but they can still be digital. Because surveys contain multiple forms and multiple participants, they're more likely to use digital mediums for easier data collection. Digital mediums may give researchers the advantage of using software or online platforms to record and document research answers. Software may also be able to create data translation figures, such as charts, graphs or presentation slides.

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