Solving the Mystery of the ‘Survey Questionnaire’

Anyone who has experience in online research will tell you that they hear the words ‘questionnaire’ and ‘survey’ on a daily basis. Typically these two words are used by professional researchers and the public interchangeably, and are thrown around at complete random. Sometimes, when an individual is feeling extra adventurous, they will go all in by combining the two words into the grammatical hybrid known as a ‘Survey Questionnaire.’ Once or twice, I have even witnessed people throw caution completely to the wind and use the dreadful ‘Questionnaire Survey.’ Living through this phenomenon for far too long, I have decided that it was time to get to the bottom of this etymological mystery! What is the difference between questionnaires and surveys?

Question(naire) Everything

After a preliminary brainstorm with my co-workers by the famous Fluidware kitchen, I was bombarded with several insightful ideas and educated guesses as to the difference between a questionnaire and a survey. Most agreed that the two words are synonymous, with some believing that though both words are acceptable, questionnaire is more commonly used in Europe whereas survey is more frequently used in North America.

I graciously digested my co-workers’ collective thoughts and contributions to the mystery, but felt dissatisfied. Why was there no consensus answer to this burning question? Naturally, I began an epic descent into the catacombs of internet answer websites and, like a man trying to self-diagnose a nagging ailment, was provided with a multitude of unlikely and eccentrically horrifying responses. Finally, I did the intelligent thing and turned my attention to the dictionary.

Surveys versus Questionnaires

As it turns out, there is a major difference between a questionnaire and a survey. A survey is defined as the measure of opinions or experiences of a group of people through the asking of questions. This is opposed to a questionnaire, which is defined as a set of printed or written questions with a choice of answers, devised for the purposes of a survey or statistical study.

So really, a questionnaire is a tool to be used for a survey. When conducting a survey your list of questions is called your questionnaire. A survey, on the other hand, encompasses all aspects of the research process, including research design, survey construction, sampling method, data collection, and response analysis.

With this knowledge, we have officially solved the ‘Survey Questionnaire’ riddle. Regardless of the common uses of survey terminology, we now know that it is appropriate to say phrases like, “This questionnaire is too long for my survey’s sample group.”

So go ahead and impress your friends with your survey research know-how! If you have any interesting questions about online survey research, don’t feel too shy to ask it in the comments below. I am always happy to help a fellow online researcher! Until next time, happy questionnaire surveying (cringe)!

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1 Comment

  • Andreas Remis says:

    Surveys are a method for data collection. Questionnaires are a type of instrument and can be used for both surveys and experiments. A questionnaire is a like a rule. It is an instrument for measurement.

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