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Questionnaire vs Survey: What Is the Difference? +Examples

Kate Williams

21 September 2023

8 min read

To set the backdrop for our exploration of ‘questionnaire vs. survey’, here’s a little tale to set the context.

It had only been a couple of days since Brendon’s boss had asked him to ‘prepare a questionnaire’ to measure customer experience at the company. On a document, Brendon had prepared a list of questions to ask customers, like ‘How was your experience on our website?’ and ‘What’s something we could do better to serve you?’ He thought he was nailing it.

When Brendon’s boss saw a list of questions on an email body, she was enraged. This is not what she had asked for. “How will anyone ever respond to this? How will we collect and analyze the data?!” she responded. Brendon was left confused, but this was actually an act of miscommunication on her part. She was simply another marketing executive who didn’t understand the questionnaire vs survey distinction.

What Brendon’s boss had been looking for was a survey, built on an online survey tool like SurveySparrow. They could send it in an email campaign or embed it on the website. With the questionnaire Brendon had prepared, that was hardly possible. That’s why it’s essential to know the difference between a survey and a questionnaire.

Questionnaire vs Survey
Comparision table survey vs questionnaire SurveySparrow

What Is A Questionnaire?

So, what is the difference between surveys and questionnaires? Let’s begin by defining a questionnaire. There’s nothing too complicated going on here – a questionnaire is simply a set of questions designed for a survey or statistical study. You can think of it as one step in a series of steps involved in a survey.

The questionnaire vs survey distinction really just comes down to the fact that most people don’t know how to use the words. You might prepare a questionnaire in the initial stages of a survey, deciding which questions you need to include to get your desired results. If you want to conduct a rigorous survey, you cannot do without a well-thought-out questionnaire.

Examples of Questionnaires

A questionnaire could refer to any sort of list of questions, like whenever you’re asking people for information needed for its sake, not for analysis. Examples would include email addresses to build an email list. You’d ask, ‘What’s your email address?’ or ‘What’s your phone number?’ Forms of that sort could be referred to as questionnaires.

If you just filled out a form putting in your personal details for a company to contact you, that wouldn’t be referred to as a survey. There’s nothing being studied. It’s simply a database that’s been derived out of a simple *drumroll* questionnaire.

Tips for Writing A Good Questionnaire

What if you were asked to prepare a questionnaire? Knowing the survey vs questionnaire difference, you wouldn’t be confused. But how do you come up with the best questions? That is a much harder topic to answer, but we’ve got you covered.

The key ingredients of a good questionnaire are short, sharp questions. You don’t want to be merging two questions into one. You don’t want to be leading your respondents on. In order to avoid such mistakes, check out our complete guide on preparing survey questions, which could also be referred to as a—you guessed it—questionnaire.

What Is A Survey?

In the questionnaire vs survey debate, we know now that a questionnaire is just a bunch of questions. “Well, then,” you might be wondering, “What is a survey?” A survey carries a lot more weight than a relatively lighter-word questionnaire. A survey is what we call the process of analyzing and studying something in an attempt to understand it better.

To understand how online surveys work, create a FREE account on SurveySparrow here.

Questionnaire vs Surveys
Understand the difference between surveys & questionnaires

Example of A Survey

A survey is a lot more than just a list of questions. At the heart of surveys is indeed a question, which the survey is trying to answer by asking questions. Is your head spinning? Let’s explain with an example. An employee’s job is to finish a given task, like cleaning up a data set or writing a blog. The job of a company, on the other hand, is to deliver value to customers and generate profit. Where are we going with this?

The difference between surveys and questionnaires is kinda similar. The questionnaire is just a simple cog in the larger machine that is the survey, which analyzes and studies and tries to find answers to difficult questions. The job of a questionnaire in this quest is simply to gather data. The survey is the whole process, from gathering the data to coming up with insights.

Tips for Conducting A Survey

If creating a questionnaire is a craft, conducting a survey is an art. It involves everything from organizational skills, marketing and data analysis. With Surveysparrow, they all come together to give rich insights that can help you reach your goals. But how do you conduct a successful survey?

You need to be very clear on the purpose of your survey. You can’t do too many things at once. You’ll need to define your audience and develop a distribution strategy. An online survey tool like Surveysparrow makes that easier, of course, but you can also take a look at our article on how to conduct a survey for more detailed guidance.

Get free access to the survey templates and create surveys in just a few clicks.

What Makes Surveys Stand Out from Questionnaires

Now that we’ve gone over the definitions of our key terms, let’s look at the questionnaire vs survey distinction. In order to simplify this for you, let’s say that a survey is a journey, of which a questionnaire is one chapter. But what comes after that? What do surveys include that questionnaires don’t?

#1 Implementation Strategies

Remember Brendon’s boss? She was looking for an entire strategy to conduct a customer experience survey. By using the word questionnaire, she failed to communicate that to him. An implementation strategy often includes picking an online survey tool, defining a target audience, and designing a marketing campaign.

A survey includes all that and more. Of course, with a surveying tool like Surveysparrow, it becomes much easier to carry out each part of the process, with inbuilt distribution methods and templates for email and social media campaigns. If you’re conducting a survey, picking the right online survey tool will take a lot of the stress away.

#2 Data Analysis

Ideally, the implementation strategy for your survey was successful, so now you have a lot of data. Unlike a questionnaire, a survey also includes the analysis of that data. You will want to get inside it like a miner and try to find the gold you’ve been looking for. That may be a key customer suggestion or a startling NPS score.

What you find, of course, depends on what you’re looking for. But it also depends on your data analysis methods. With Surveysparrow’s comprehensive dashboard, you can analyze your data with a user-friendly UI. An online survey tool like Surveysparrow can make data analysis more accessible and help you dig out insights that can prove to be immensely useful.

#3 Survey Reports

When it comes to the difference between surveys and questionnaires, another element of that is the final report. A survey most often concludes with a survey report, which lays out the aims of your survey, the methodology involved and the results you found. When done creatively, survey reports can be reader-friendly and accessible.

As you can see, a survey involves a lot more steps than a simple questionnaire. As we mentioned before, a survey is best thought of as a quest. It involves as many steps as needed to get to the end of the quest, which would be to find the answers you’re looking for. A good questionnaire can help you along the way.

Questionnaire vs Survey: Qualitative or Quantitative

We’ve talked about the differences between surveys and questionnaires, but here’s an aspect in which they’re the same. You must have heard the words qualitative and quantitative, wondering exactly what they mean. Well, you’re in luck, because we will firmly clear out your confusion about this. A survey, just like a questionnaire, can be either qualitative or quantitative. The difference between the two Qs involves the kind of data being collected and the methods of analyzing it. Let’s dive into it.

Quantitative Surveys

A quantitative survey is one in which the responses sought are strictly numerical. You deal in numbers, like spending data, age, or monthly income. These are fairly objective, and analyzing them resembles crunching numbers. Want to find out the average income of a 25-year-old in New York City? You’ve got a quantitative survey to conduct.

For quantitative surveys, the questionnaire you would design would involve precise questions that demand precise answers. There should be little to no scope for interpretation, and these questions are pretty straightforward. A questionnaire that is simply asking questions that have numerical responses is a quantitative questionnaire.

A good example of a quantitative survey is a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey. These are surveys that ask ‘How likely would you be to recommend us to a friend?’ Notice that the question is very subjective and can be answered in several ways. However, since the responses demanded are only numerical and often in a range of 1-10, it is a quantitative survey.

Qualitative Surveys

A qualitative survey, which would include a qualitative questionnaire, is one in which the responses sought are more subjective and are derived from the respondent’s experience or personal opinion. Want to find out how lonely a 25-year-old is in New York City? You’ve got a qualitative survey on your hands.

If you’re designing a questionnaire for a qualitative survey, you would include open-ended questions that respondents can answer however they wish. It’s not like respondents couldn’t express their level of loneliness in a score. The spirit behind qualitative surveys is that you want to find out more than a number and see if that can help you deliver great insights.

It is often a good idea to have a qualitative element in customer satisfaction surveys. Sure, you want to know how they felt about your product in a score between 1-10, but you also want them to put words to their experience and any suggestions they may have for you. Analyzing qualitative research is about detecting patterns instead of number-crunching.

What Is The Difference Between Surveys And Questionnaires?

If you’ve made it here, we’re hoping you already know the answer to this question. But sometimes things need to be defined neatly. If you’ve been waiting for them, we’re not ones to disappoint. In simple words, here’s the difference between surveys and questionnaires.

A questionnaire is a list of questions prepared as part of a survey. A survey is a process that includes preparing a questionnaire, distributing it, gathering data, and analyzing it. When it comes down to it, there’s nothing more complicated going on in the questionnaire vs survey distinction.

In one sense, Brendon got off easy. He only had to prepare a questionnaire. If his boss had told him to conduct a survey, he would’ve had to handle a lot more. If you find yourself in that position right now, relying on an online survey tool like Surveysparrow is a great idea. We help you craft beautiful surveys that gain 40% more responses.

Wrapping Up

No matter their differences, the questionnaire vs survey distinction is only so important. After all, they are both involved in the same quest: to find out. Brendon completed the first step to conducting a successful survey by preparing a questionnaire.

What is more important than getting lost in these terms is to get each step right, from asking the right questions to using the appropriate analysis tools. At Surveysparrow, we’ve put it all together to give you the best experience conducting your survey.

We have everything from the questionnaire templates to help you design your survey to analysis tools that help you break down your results. Give Surveysparrow a try, and experience how easy it can be to conduct a rigorous survey and find out rich insights that can accelerate your progress.

Kate Williams

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow

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