A Primer on Survey Tools

Survey tools are just one of those resources that you don’t really think about until you need to utilize one.  All of a sudden, you’re tasked with gathering opinions, planning an event, or populating a spreadsheet with data. Creating a survey can be a simple way to address many data and information gathering tasks, and there are many free resources available on the web to do so!

Most Popular

Planning an event? There are a few templates for that!

SurveyMonkey is likely the survey tool you’ve heard about the most. If you just need to create a basic survey with no bells and whistles, this free resource is the one for you. Signing up for an account is quick and easy.  With even just the basic account, you have access to over 100 pre-built survey templates to choose from to help you build a survey that suits your needs, or you can build one completely from scratch.

The basic account limits you to ten questions per survey, but you can create an unlimited number of surveys. There are many ways you can share your survey after you’ve built it, including via email and through social media. With a paid account, you gain access to useful features like question logic and additional customization options. SurveyMonkey is great if you just need to develop a straight-forward short questionnaire.

Versatility and Ease of Access

Assuming you don’t want to create another account that you’ll need to remember a username and password for,  if you already have a Google Account you can utilize Google Forms to create your surveys. This is another straight-forward and free survey tool, but with a little additional thought, you can use Google Forms to collect all sorts of data and not just responses to a questionnaire. Google Forms dumps all of its data into a Google Sheets spreadsheet which you can then export to a program like Microsoft Excel for further data manipulation. So for example, if you wanted to create a comprehensive listing of all of the collectible action figures you owned and didn’t want to manually input the data into a spreadsheet, you might use Google Forms to create a “survey” that you would fill out that asked for common information about each action figure which would populate a spreadsheet for you. Not the most traditional use of a survey, but Google Forms is the ideal platform to play around with unique ideas like that. You can create unlimited surveys from scratch or from a number of pre-built templates, ask unlimited questions, and access everything  from the convenience of your Google Account. Google Forms also lacks a lot of robust functionality, but there may be add-ons created by other Google users – some free and some not-so free – that you can add to your survey to give it a boost.

They may be an add-on available kick your survey up a notch.

When You Need More Power

Create smarter surveys in Qualtrics.

Sometimes the survey you need to create would benefit from some more superior customization options. A tool like Qualtrics would fit the bill.  A free version of the software is available, but the paid version gives you the most bang for your buck. This is a great example of a survey tool that the research office at your academic institution might already be paying for and that you might have access to.  It’s powerful, and while it might not create the most visually stunning survey, you can use the built-in functions to tweak just about every aspect of how your survey questions are asked, distributed, collected, and analyzed. For example, with Qualtrics you can specify if a question in your survey should be skipped based on the response received from a previous question. This is  great for your survey participants as it can limit the total number of questions they have to answer, and can prevent them from having to answer questions that may not be relevant to them. Because there are so many options and features, Qualtrics can be a little harder to become comfortable building surveys in compared to Google Forms or SurveyMonkey, so it’s probably not the best tool  to use if you want to quickly create something.

There are of course many more survey tools on the web, so find one that suits you and your needs!

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