Survey vs. Questionnaire | Definition, Examples and Difference

If you think surveys and questionnaires are the same, you are not alone! Learn all about their similarities, differences and much more, with this article.

Tanvi Moitra
September 13, 2023
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Surveys and questionnaires are often used synonymously. While they are very similar to each other, they do not always refer to same concept. It's important to understand the difference between a survey and a questionnaire if you're planning to conduct research, a study, or engage in another activity where collecting data is required. Depending on your study’s goals and objectives, knowing the differences between these terms will help you decide which is more advantageous.

Both techniques are used to gather respondents' data by asking them questions. In order to gain information from people about social concerns or for the marketing of a product, both of these techniques are employed to collect primary data. The traditional method of conducting research involves conducting surveys, in which participants are asked about their behavior, awareness, motivations, demographics, and other details.Whereas, questionnaires used to gather data on a certain issue. They usual involve distributing forms with questions pertaining to the subject of investigation.

This article goes in-depth about the nitty-gritty of survey vs. questionnaire. You will learn about what they are, their different types, similarities and differences between them and much more. So, let’s dive in!

Why is it Important to Understand the Difference?

There are mainly two reasons why understanding the difference between surveys and questionnaires matter-

Firstly, since both these research methods are respondent facing, having a clear understanding about the differences between them helps you gather data successfully.

Secondly, it is not necessary that questionnaires alone will garner conclusions or insights from the responses collected. The data must be evaluated, interpreted, and grouped with responses from other respondents in order for it to be useful. When questionnaires are included in a survey, data can be collected and analyzed to find trends and patterns.


What is a Questionnaire?

A survey questionnaire is used to gather data on people from a set of pre-selected questions as part of a larger survey. Its reach is constrained, and it doesn't examine statistics or present a comprehensive picture.

As a brand, you would send a survey questionnaire to a customer to understand their unique experience rather than your overall customer experience.

Multiple-choice, closed-ended, Likert-scale, and other questions are used in questionnaires to gather data from the target population. Additionally, they aid in the gathering of quantitative and qualitative data for research.

Example of a Questionnaire

Let's say a brand wishes to take its employees on a trip. To assess their needs, they would need details about each team member. The company distributes a questionnaire containing various questions to gather information about its employees.

Since the questionnaires only provide information about a single employee, each one will be analyzed separately in this scenario. There won't be a comprehensive analysis of the data gathered.

Types of Questionnaires

Quantitative Questionnaires

This type usually involves close-ended questions with the responses being limited to Yes/No or numbers.

For example: The question could be “Did you like our product?” with the answer choice being “Yes” or “No”.

Qualitative Questionnaires

Open-ended questions and written responses are common features of qualitative questionnaires. To appropriately interpret the data, more analysis is required paving the way for the questionnaire to become a survey after it has been analyzed.

For example: The question could be “What did you like most about our product?”

Demographic Questionnaires

These usually use close-ended questions to collect data about the demographic details about the target audience like age, religion, ethnicity etc.

Other types include psychographic, scaled and pictorial questionnaires.

What is a Survey?

A survey is a collection of inquiries, methods, and techniques used to examine data about the target audience. There are usually questionnaires in surveys. But, a single questionnaire is just one small portion of a survey.

Participants are often surveyed using a combination of closed- and open-ended questions, allowing surveys to produce either quantitative or qualitative data. To reduce the possibility of biases, survey respondents are selected using standardized procedures and preliminary screenings.

Example of a Survey

Consider conducting a survey to determine how customers feel about a recently added feature to your product. To get their feedback, you send a questionnaire that includes pertinent questions about the feature's advantages and disadvantages, efficacy, and performance.

Since every individual’s response will be slightly different, the corporation won't be able to determine the feature's overall performance from each response alone. However, the outcomes will be accurate and obvious once you organize the questionnaire data and analyse it using data visualization tools. You'll be able to tell how many consumers like the feature and how many need follow-up in order to remain customers.

Types of Surveys

Net Promoter Score Surveys

By posing a straightforward questionss on a Likert scale, the Net Promoter Score is calculated. The NPS survey measure helps in separating your supporters from your opponents.

Customer Satisfaction Surveys

Customers' specific and overall experiences are studied via CSAT surveys. Customers can be questioned, for instance, about their general impressions of the brand as well as their happiness with a particular product, feature, or service.

Other type of surveys are customer effort score surveys, system usability scale surveys, exit-intent surveys etc.


Key Similarities and Differences between Surveys and Questionnaires

While surveys and questionnaires are used interchangeably due to their vast similarities, there are some key differences that you must also keep in mind. Here is a quick summary about the differences between surveys and questionnaires-

  • The phrase "survey" refers to the gathering, logging, and analysis of data on a specific topic, region, or people's group. A questionnaire is a form with a set of pre-made questions that is given to participants in order to collect statistical data.
  • Data from the population are gathered and analyzed during the survey. On the other hand, the questionnaire is a tool for gathering data.
  • The least time-consuming approach of gathering data is through a questionnaire, however conducting a survey takes a lot of time.
  • A survey is carried out but a questionnaire is handed out, mailed, or disseminated to the respondents.
  • In a survey, the questions can be either open-ended or closed-ended, depending on the topic being covered by the survey. However, the questionnaire may only contain closed-ended questions.
  • Depending on the question, the response given by the respondents during the survey may be either subjective or objective. In contrast, the survey respondents offer impartial responses.

When to Use Questionnaires vs. Surveys

Even while surveys eventually provide researchers with more value than questionnaires, there are specific circumstances that call for the use of standalone questionnaires rather than surveys. The more sensible choice is to use questionnaires for gathering data on a person for the following reasons:

  • Taking contributions.
  • Establishing email lists.
  • Collecting information needed to process payments.
  • Conducting interviews for jobs.

When you want to gather feedback from your respondents and want to draw conclusions from the data gathered, surveys are more beneficial. These strategies work well when you want to reach a specific objective and appeal to a certain audience.

Here are a few situations where a survey would be a better option:

  • Taking comments from customers after an experience.
  • Determining the success of a product.
  • Measuring worker satisfaction.
  • Interviewing departing employees.
  • Measuring brand recognition.

The Bottom Line

Surveys and Questionnaires are not the same. You may feel that since a survey encompasses everything, it is the optimum way to go. But, questionnaires come in handy in a lot of scenarios. Moreover, understanding the differences between them is essential if you want to collect data that is actionable and reliable.


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Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
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Author Bio

Tanvi Moitra
Tanvi can usually be found anxiously treading the office floor to get her content reviewed, here at Entropik. When not absorbed by researching and writing, she loves to read, go for a swim, play badminton, paint, and otherwise spend too much time bingeing on the Office and cuddling her German Shepherd, Whiskey. An absolute foodie, she would love to cook and bake for you and even give you the best dessert suggestions in the office.

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