Survey or Questionnaire?

Birthday cake
Image by Sami Malallah via Flickr

I was asked by one of the blog readers about the difference between surveys and questionnaire. We can easily get confused because they are doing almost the same thing. Surveys are more popular because most of the researchers use them to collect information from large population. But surveys need statistical calculations to analyse and interpret. Surveys are mostly used for quantitative researches. The surveys are usual printed on few pages and distributed in classrooms, shopping centers or social gatherings. Recently, most of the surveys are conducted online thought free survey services like Zoomerang or SurveyMonky who can collect and analyse the data for competitive prices.  Questionnaires are used for qualitative researches and usually conducted in a face-to-face setting.

Survey is a set of questions prepared with answers to choose from. For example the question can be “what is your favorite sweet after a good meal?” the answer can be: 1) cheese cake 2) chocolate cake 3) fruit salad 4) fresh apple. The survey participant will choose one answer. Questionnaires are set of questions to ask open-ended questions to get the participants perception or experience on the studied subject. Question can be “What do you like to eat after you main meal when you dine in a restaurant?”

Everybody Should Answer This Survey!

Please check one

Please check one

Listen to this postLarge and medium size companies usually ask consultants to help them improve their administrative and human resources work. The consultant usually start by distributing a survey to assess the current condition and find gaps from the desired conditions they are in at that time. Most of the surveys used by the consulted are well constructed surveys that were used in different companies before. The consultant usually do few tweaks on the standard survey to customize it for each company’s special needs and culture. The problem with most of these surveys is the method it is written with. The questions are written in a way only middle management and senior staff would understand and answer. Junior staff will find such questions to be difficult to understand because they are related to the company’s long term strategies, failure of change management and other complicated issues. The consultant needs cross sectional response and the management wants the survey to end as soon as possible. The result would be using a well constructed survey for the wrong population to produce wrong results. Normally the results are never showed to the junior staff., but the management would ask them to carry out the recommendation in every possible way. I am sure that some of the surveys could be more successful if more time is spent in writing them.

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