Survey vs questionnaire: What's the difference?

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If you’re confused about the meaning of “questionnaire” and “survey,” you aren’t alone. Many people, even professional researchers, still use the two terms interchangeably. While you’ve probably heard plenty of people use the terms questionnaire and survey as synonyms, they’re actually two separate things.

Surveys versus questionnaires

A questionnaire is any written set of questions, while a survey is both the set of questions and the process of collecting, aggregating, and analyzing the responses from those questions. In other words, “questionnaire” describes content, while “survey” is a broader term that describes content, method, and analysis.

Let’s take a closer look at the differences between questionnaires and surveys, and how you can use both to collect valuable data from your respondents.

How to write a great questionnaire

Any set of questions, no matter how personal or general the subject matter, is a questionnaire. Whether your questionnaire stands on its own or is part of a survey, to get great results you need to ask great questions. Check our guide to writing survey questions like a pro for more about selecting great questions for your questionnaire.

Also, as you write a questionnaire, keep its length in mind. As the number of questions increases, the completion rate often decreases. In one study, we found that questionnaires with 40 questions have about a 10% lower response rate than questionnaires with 10 questions. People also tend to spend about 10 minutes filling out a questionnaire, regardless of its length. This means that if you ask fewer questions, your respondents are likely to spend more time on each question.

3 steps to running a successful survey

The way you design, implement, and analyze a survey impacts your results as much as the questions you ask. Let’s dive into each of these areas:

1. Survey design is an essential part of any survey. It involves planning each part of your survey project—from defining your survey goals to aligning on who reviews your survey responses. Learn more about survey design by checking out our best practices.

2. The way you collect responses also impacts your survey. You can use a number of approaches to collecting feedback–including sharing a link to your survey on social media, emailing the survey to your audience, and embedding it on your site. And if you need help surveying your target market, SurveyMonkey Audience can help.

3. As the responses come in, you can take a closer look at them through SurveyMonkey Analyze. The tool offers a virtually endless number of ways to segment, aggregate, and analyze your survey responses so that you can better understand your feedback and make great decisions.

When to use a survey instead of a questionnaire—and vice versa

There are limited use cases for stand-alone questionnaires. These use cases include building an email list, accepting payments or donations, or collecting personal accounts for a research project. Wufoo is often ideal for these applications, especially when payments are involved.

If–on the other hand–you’re looking for feedback from your respondents, a survey is a better option. It aggregates data from multiple respondents, so that you can make broad conclusions about your results.

Now that you know the difference between a questionnaire and a survey, collect actionable feedback today! Start your survey.