The Difference Between Survey And Questionnaire

Often the terms survey and questionnaire are used interchangeably and indiscriminately by many in the industry and business. This is because both are usually understood to be the same tool for the same aims – to obtain information from respondents to help the business move forward. However, there are some differences between the two elements.

Let’s look at the differences between a survey and questionnaire and how they can both help your business to develop and service customers better.

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What Is The Main Difference Between A Survey And Questionnaire?

The major difference between the two elements is that a survey is the collection and analysis of experiences/opinions of an audience through asked questions. A questionnaire is defined as a specific list of questions with options for the audience to respond.

The two definitions mean a survey always contains a questionnaire, but a questionnaire doesn’t have to be part of a survey. To get more details of the differences however, you need to look more carefully at what makes a questionnaire.

What Is The Detailed Explanation Of The Questionnaire?

A questionnaire is often described as a collection of questions designed to collect information from participants for research purposes. Each question has a way for the respondent to give their answers. This could be in a form of a quantitative answer or a qualitative response.

A quantitative question is one where the participant is offered a set number of responses. This could be like asking whether a person lives in the US or not and having only those options available. Another example would be for someone to rate their experiences in an event and offering them five options like unsatisfactory, very unsatisfactory, content, satisfactory or very satisfactory. This type of answer format makes it very strict on what the answers can be and there is little room for exploration behind answers. However, it is easy for analysis.

A qualitative question (open-ended) is one where there is a space for the respondent to give their answer without restraints. Such as asking where does the person live and giving them a box to write their answer. These offer more freedom and give businesses the chance to explore answers or to get more details. The downside is they also make it harder for the business to analyze responses.

Generally speaking, there are two types of questionnaires available. The first is one which evaluates variables that are not related such as an individual behavior, opinions and facts. The other is one in which answers are used to calculate a general answer based on a scale of the combined scores of the answer. For instance, calculating whether staff are engaged at work by asking a series of questions that result in an engagement level percentage.

In theory, you can have these two types of questionnaires within one survey. However, it can be difficult to differentiate between them.

Finally, it is important to note a questionnaire is setup not to get an emotional response from the audience. They should be focused on answering the questions free from emotion.

How Surveys And Questionnaires Work Together

Surveys comprise of questionnaires that contain a mixture of closed and open questions designed to collect data from a set audience group. Without the questionnaire, the survey cannot exist and that is the important thing to remember about the two.

When we refer to a questionnaire we are talking about the questions and the potential answers within a survey. When we’re talking about a survey, we can be talking about how the questions are delivered to the audience, how the results are collected, how to define the audience and other strategic questions within the data collection process.

Many aspects form part of the survey strategy, including the cost, coverage, willingness of participants, delivery method and the flexibility to collect answers. However, these aspects do not impact the questionnaire. The questionnaire can remain exactly the same when other aspects of the survey are changed.

For instance, asking someone for their opinion on the latest model of phone and requesting an open-ended response can be taken via face-to-face, telephone interviews, postal or even on an online form. The question doesn’t need to change, nor the manner of the answer.

However, how you get that question to the respondent can change.


Surveys and questionnaires are different. A survey must always contain a questionnaire but a questionnaire doesn’t have to be part of a survey. The survey is more concerned with the strategic aspects of collecting responses while the questionnaire is about asking the specific question.

With this information, you should know how to use the terms in order to not get confused. With this, you can also progress with more certainty with your surveys and questionnaires, hopefully collecting the information you need to make informed decisions about your brand’s future direction.

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