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Both surveys and questionnaires are commonly used as support tools for research in various areas, and they serve the common goal, which is to eventually gather data from a target group of people. “So, are they the same thing?” Good question! But actually, they are not. Since surveys and questionnaires are often wrongly interchangeable, we will provide you with an overview of each and show you how they differ in this article. Let’s get to know how they are defined first.  

What Is a Questionnaire?  

A questionnaire is a research instrument featuring a series of questions and other prompts to collect information and insights from individual respondents. Normally, questionnaires can be used to collect both quantitative and qualitative data, although they are more commonly associated with qualitative research.  

Questionnaires can be separated into two types: Structured and unstructured. The structured questionnaires aim to narrow down the answers by asking closed-ended questions, while the unstructured ones are more flexible and enable respondents to put more thought into their answers. It is up to the specific purpose of conducting questionnaires to decide which type to choose and which methods to carry out research, such as via mail, online, or in person. A questionnaire is often an integral part of a survey.  

What Is a Survey?  

A survey refers to a combination of different data collection methods and processes used to gather and analyze data from a predefined group of respondents. Like questionnaires, surveys can be done to gather both quantitative and qualitative data, but a survey is more into quantitative purpose. Usually, a survey is administered by the researchers instead of self-administering as in questionnaires.   

The ultimate goal of surveys is to get to know the target respondents in terms of their opinions, perceptions, and behaviors toward specific topics or interests and leverage the information and insights to serve the purpose of statistical analysis and forecasting. Surveys can be conducted through different modes such as written questionnaires, telephone interviews, face-to-face interviews, or online forms. 

The Key Difference Between Questionnaires & Surveys – A Detailed Comparison  

In order not to confuse you further with the likenesses between a survey and a questionnaire, we will not repeat the similarities. Instead, we outline their primary differences in a side-by-side comparison:  

  • Above all, they are different in nature. When a questionnaire is a research instrument for collecting data from individuals, a survey is a research method for data collection and analysis that encompasses an instrument such as the questionnaire.   
  • A survey always includes a questionnaire, but not vice versa.  
  • One more thing making them easier to distinguish is that questionnaires are more concentrated on qualitative research while surveys are on the contrary.  
  • The time frame for doing a questionnaire is far shorter than a survey.   
  • There is also a clear difference in cost. Since a questionnaire is simpler and easier to conduct, it is more cost-efficient. On the other hand, a survey requires more time and more complicated processes and methods, so it is more costly.  
  • Surveys aim at higher purposes than questionnaires, so they are more flexible in the questions answers in order to gather more comprehensive answers for further analysis and forecast. Although questionnaires can feature both open-ended and closed-ended questions, too, they are more into the closed ones. This narrows the outcomes of a questionnaire and makes it less flexible for further exploitation.  

And those are all things that make a survey different from a questionnaire. Through this comparison, we expect that you will be able to tell them apart and use them flexibly and wisely in your research.

When to Use Surveys & Questionnaires  

Certainly, surveys and questionnaires are different in multiple aspects, and so are their use cases. There will be no fixed use cases for them, but you can decide when to use each based on the ideas behind the research you are about to conduct.   

Even though surveys are more comprehensive, a stand-alone questionnaire proves to be a logical option in some cases. In general, questionnaires should be used when you strive to gather data in terms of personal opinions, perceptions, or attitudes from individuals for specific purposes, such as:  

  • Get customer feedback on your products or services.  
  • Test how customers react to a new product or service.  
  • Gather opinions about current affairs or social issues.  
  • Screen job applicants.  
  • Collect data for academic research.  
  • Etc.  

Meanwhile, surveys are more suitable for those who are striving to conduct complete research on something and require information and insights from target groups of people to analyze and make inferences. Let’s look at some examples of situations using surveys:  

  • Need to compile data on the opinions, behaviors, and perceptions of a large number of people.  
  • Gather insights to forecast the upcoming trends.  
  • Measure customer satisfaction at a higher level.  
  • Evaluate the success of a marketing campaign.  
  • Conduct exit talks.  
  • Measure brand awareness.  
  • Etc. 

What Do Surveys & Questionnaires Mean for HR Management Strategy?  

In the area of HR management, surveys and questionnaires play a vital role. They are necessary tools utilized for a great variety of purposes ranging from screening job applicants, assessing employee engagement, employee experience, and satisfaction, measuring the performance of training courses, onboarding procedures, and many other things. After studying the responses from employees through surveys or questionnaires, employers will have enough statistics and insights to assess their current HR strategies to decide where to maintain, where to improve, and where to make changes.   

No matter if you are going to conduct a stand-alone questionnaire or a survey, bravoSURVEYS can empower you to the fullest. This is one of the four core features of bravoSUITE that enables you to quickly and easily craft an engaging, customized survey to gather influential data that drives the growth and sustainability of your organization. Now that you know the differences between surveys and questionnaires and also have the right tool to create one with ease. Let’s give it a try now.   


Trung's avatar
Trung Tran
Technical/Content Writer
Trung is a writer who loves researching and blogging about all HR-specific topics and the latest.
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