Chapter 8: Data Collection Methods: Survey Research

8.2 Understanding the Difference between a Survey and a Questionnaire

Before we move on to look at the strengths and weaknesses of survey research, we will take a step back to make sure you understand the difference between the concepts of surveys and questionnaires. Both surveys and questionnaires use a series of questions to gather information, however the purpose of the research and the treatment of the data after it is collected distinguish a questionnaire from a survey, e.g.:

  • A questionnaire is a set of written questions used for collecting information for the benefit of one single individual.
  • A survey is a process of gathering information for statistical analysis to the benefit of a group of individuals (a research method).
  • A questionnaire does not aggregate data for statistical analysis after the data is collected, whereas survey responses are aggregated to draw conclusions.

A questionnaire is the set of questions that are used to gather the information, whereas a survey is a process of collecting and analyzing data. If the collected data will not be aggregated and is solely for the benefit of the respondent, then that is a questionnaire. If the data being collected with be aggregated and used for analytical purposes that is a survey (McKay, 2015). Sometimes questionnaire data is aggregated; it then becomes a survey, sometimes without the participant’s knowledge. For example, the bank where you filled in a loan application aggregates the data from all loan applications in the year 2017 and presents the information to shareholders in aggregated form at its 2018 annual general meeting. The bank has taken questionnaire data and aggregated it into survey data.

Understanding the difference between a survey and a questionnaire.

Meaning Survey refers to the collection, recording and analysis of information on a particular subject, an area or a group of people. Questionnaire implies a form containing a list of ready-made questions, delivered to people for obtaining statistical information.
What is it? Process of collecting and analysing data Instrument of data collection
Time Time consuming process Fast process
Use It is conducted on the target audience. It is distributed or delivered to the respondents.

Adapted from Surbhi, S. (2016).  Difference between survey and questionnaire.  Retrieved from