Survey and Questionnaire

Surveys are used to gain and evaluate information from a larger population. They are often used for population surveys, linked with questionnaires. Surveys are often completed anonymously, but may include a request for personal identification. 

Surveys can provide both quantitative (numbers of choices, for example) and qualitative information (opinions, for example) for analysis and evaluation.

A questionnaire is a set of questions being asked of a participant to provide evidence for analysis and evaluation within a survey. Questionnaires are conventionally completed by one person at a time, to avoid forms of bias, but sent to multiple people at the same time. This is to capture as many responses as possible within the duration of a study.

Surveys formats include:

  • Face to face survey of set questions (no deviation or discussion)
  • Telephone survey (operator or automated)
  • Mailshot survey (completed by hand)
  • Online survey (completed via computer on the internet)

Types of questions that can be asked include:

  • Dichotomous, where the respondent has two options
  • Nominal-polytomous, where the respondent has more than two unordered options
  • Ordinal-polytomous, where the respondent has more than two ordered options
  • (Bounded)Continuous, where the respondent is presented with a continuous scale

Questionnaires with questions that measure separate variables could for instance include questions on:

  • preferences (e.g. political party)
  • behaviours (e.g. food consumption)
  • facts (e.g. gender)

Questionnaires are aggregated into either a scale or index questions that include, for instance, questions that measure:

  • latent traits (e.g. personality traits such as extroversion)
  • attitudes (e.g. towards immigration)
  • an index (e.g. Social Economic Status)

An example of a survey structure includes:

“Thank you for taking part. Introductory explanation of why the survey is being carried out and what will be done with the information, estimated time to complete; and, contact information if there are more enquiries about the survey or a complaint.

A consent ‘tick box’ (online) or signature, if not completed anonymously

Information about the participant

Questions related to the ‘research question’ to be answered

Cross referenced questions

Completion and ‘Thank you’ page including, further participation.”

Consider enabling the participant to have a copy of the survey they have completed and a contact where they can get access to the completed survey results when published.

When developing your survey consider:

  • Use Terminology and langue appropriate to your target population
  • Use statements that allow for different terminology in the answer
  • Specific, closed followed by an open question.
  • Use only one aspect of the construct you are interested in per item.
  • Use positive statements and avoid negatives or double negatives.
  • Do not make assumptions about the respondent.
  • Use correct spelling, grammar and punctuation.
  • Avoid items that contain more than one question per item (e.g. Do you like Apples and Pears?)

Additional data collection methods or techniques that may be used in conjunction with surveys include:

  • Product or cultural probes
  • Interview
  • Likert scales
  • Paired comparisons
  • Ranking
  • Online surveys

Viewed with suspicion (payment to be involved a likely scam)

Paid involvement or incentives may also be a scam and introduces Bias.

Useful links

Bristol online surveys (mainly academic use)

Surveymonkey (limited number of uses)

Google analytics

Cohen, L., L.Mannion, and K.Morrison 2007. Research methods in education. 6th ed. London, New York: Routledge.

Torrens, GE (2011) Universal Design: empathy and affinity. In Karwowski, W, Soares, M, M, Stanton, A, N, Eds, (ed) Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics in Consumer Products, CRC Press, pp.233-248 Available at: (, Accessed: [7/11/2015]

Wilson, J. R., and E. N. Corlett. 1995. Evaluation of human work: A practical ergonomics methodology. 2nd ed. London: Taylor & Francis.