Survey vs questionnaire: Their key differences

Is the questionnaire a survey? Or is a survey simply a more detailed questionnaire? You might be confused about the difference between a survey and a questionnaire, right? Well, you’re not alone. It’s a common conundrum that many face.


Is the questionnaire a survey? Or is a survey simply a more detailed questionnaire?

You might be confused about the difference between a survey and a questionnaire, right? Well, you’re not alone. It’s a common conundrum that many face.

Both terms are often used interchangeably, but in reality, they serve different purposes.

In this blog, we’ll explain the questionnaire vs survey difference, dive into their unique purposes, and highlight when and how to use each effectively.

But before diving deep into the surveys and questionnaires’ differences, let’s first familiarize ourselves with their definitions.

Understanding questionnaires and surveys

Questionnaires and surveys both provide an approach to collecting valuable information from target audiences, yet they are used for different purposes when it comes to data gathering.

To understand the survey vs questionnaire difference, let’s first take a look at what sets each of these tools apart.


A questionnaire is a valuable tool for data acquisition, typically consisting of pre-determined questions.

It is usually concise, directed towards a specific audience, and ensures that respondents provide the specific pieces of information required.

It is created to capture straightforward and objective answers. This very nature makes it a fast and efficient way to collect measurable data.


A Survey, in contrast, is more detailed than a questionnaire.

They involve not just the collection but also the detailed analysis of data.

Surveys can use questionnaires as part of their process but often include open-ended questions inviting respondents to share more in-depth views.

This aspect of surveys allows for a richer, more subjective analysis of the collected data, making it possible to delve into the reasoning and motivations behind the responses.

As such, surveys are usually more time-consuming but they provide a comprehensive insight that is as valuable as it is detailed.

Now that we are done with the definitions, let’s understand the survey versus questionnaire differences in detail.

Survey vs questionnaire difference

Following are the criteria based on which surveys and questionnaires differ from each other:


A questionnaire is designed to collect specific information efficiently.

For example, a restaurant might use a questionnaire to quickly gather customer feedback on a new menu item.

The goal here is to acquire straightforward responses on a narrow topic:

  • New dish’s taste
  • Presentation
  • Waiter Behaviour
  • Overall satisfaction

In contrast, the purpose of a survey is often exploratory or explanatory.

It aims to understand broader patterns or to test hypotheses.

An organization might conduct a survey to explore employee engagement or employee satisfaction across various departments, including questions about:

  • Workplace culture
  • Job satisfaction
  • Management

This not only collects data but also helps in identifying underlying issues or trends that might require further investigation.


When we talk about survey vs questionnaire, time is a significant differentiator.

Filling out a questionnaire is usually a fast process.

It’s designed to be completed in a short time frame, often within minutes or even seconds in some cases.

For instance, a customer satisfaction questionnaire at a coffee shop is quick to fill out while enjoying a beverage. You don’t need to pay extra attention while you’re at it.

Surveys, however, are more time-consuming due to their detailed nature and relatively longer format.

Conducting a survey might take weeks or months from design to analysis. And filling it may take anywhere from 10-30 minutes.

Some organizations that conduct yearly employee surveys might make them more extensive.

For example, a longitudinal survey studying the long-term effects of remote work on productivity would require data collection at multiple points in time to track changes and trends.


Usage is another differentiating factor between survey vs questionnaire.

Questionnaires are often used when the information needed is clear and the questions can be direct and to the point.

A company may use a questionnaire to collect data on employees’ basic training needs, where each question targets a specific piece of information about the employee’s current skills and knowledge.

Here are a few example questions that could be included in such a questionnaire:

  • On a scale from 1 (not knowledgeable) to 5 (very knowledgeable), how would you rate your proficiency with our current project management software?
  • Yes or No: Have you completed training in customer relationship management (CRM) software in the past year?
  • How many hours per month are you willing to dedicate to skills development and training?

On the contrary, Surveys are used when the situation calls for a more nuanced understanding.

They are typically employed in research that requires context, such as a public opinion survey before a political election.

This kind of survey would not only ask about voting preferences but also seek to understand the reasons behind these preferences and other influencing factors.

survey vs questionnaire

Question and answer types

The types of questions and answers in questionnaires and surveys are perhaps the most telling difference. Questionnaires predominantly use closed-ended questions, leading to quantitative data.

For example, a market research questionnaire might ask consumers to rate a product on a scale from 1 to 5.

Surveys, however, often include both closed and open-ended questions, resulting in a mix of quantitative and qualitative data.

In a health survey, participants may be asked to rate their physical activity levels on a scale (quantitative) and also describe in their own words how they feel physically and mentally (qualitative).

For instance, common questions included in employee engagement surveys may be:

  • Do you feel your work here makes a meaningful contribution to the organization’s goals?
  • How well do you believe management supports your professional growth and development?
  • In your opinion, how effective is the communication from leadership about important matters in the company?

While some questions may seek yes-or-no answers, generally they encourage respondents to provide their perspective, which can yield rich, qualitative data.

Conversely, questionnaires tend to employ closed-ended questions, which are designed to gather quantitative data efficiently.

They’re straightforward to analyze, often using a Likert scale, multiple-choice, or true/false format.

Common questions included in a customer satisfaction questionnaire may be:

  • On a scale of 1 to 5, how satisfied are you with our product/service?
  • Would you recommend our product/service to a friend or colleague? (Yes/No)
  • Which features do you use the most? (Please select all that apply from the provided list)

These questions are created to obtain specific information that can be easily quantified, helping businesses measure satisfaction levels and identify areas for improvement.

By looking at these differences, we can see that questionnaires and surveys are not interchangeable but complementary tools. Each has its strengths and ideal scenarios for use.

Now the question arises: When should you use a questionnaire vs a survey?

When to use questionnaires and surveys?

When deciding between a survey vs questionnaire, consider the depth of information you need and the context in which you are collecting it.

Questionnaires are particularly useful when you need to collect straightforward, factual information from individuals in a timely fashion.

They’re best when your data points are clear and your need for in-depth information is minimal.


Here are some scenarios where questionnaires would be the appropriate choice:

  • Event registration: When attendees are signing up for a conference, a questionnaire can capture essential details such as name, contact information, and session preferences without requiring lengthy input.
  • Pre-employment screening: To efficiently filter through a large pool of candidates, questionnaires can assess specific qualifications, availability, and previous work experience. This can help streamline the selection process.
  • Customer preferences: Retailers may use a questionnaire to identify customers’ preferred styles or sizes before launching a new clothing line. This can help them tailor their inventory to meet expected demands.
  • Health assessments: Medical clinics might use questionnaires for patients to record their symptoms, medical history, and current medications before a consultation, ensuring that doctors have the necessary information at hand.

Surveys, in contrast, are more suited for times when you wish to explore opinions, behaviors, and patterns.

They are the tools of choice for situations that benefit from open-ended responses and the rich, qualitative data they provide.


Here are instances when surveys would be the more appropriate tool:

  • Post-service feedback: A hotel might use a survey to know about a guest’s overall experience and whether or not they will come back. This does not only shed light on the satisfaction levels but also highlights key areas for improvement.
  • Market research: Before launching a new product, a company may conduct a survey to understand the potential market’s habits, needs, and preferences to gain insights that can shape product development and marketing strategies.
  • Organizational change feedback: When a company undergoes major changes, a survey can help gauge the impact on employee morale and productivity to provide a platform for staff to express their concerns and suggestions.
  • Community needs assessment: A non-profit organization looking to develop community programs would benefit from micro surveys to understand the varied needs of the population they serve, ensuring that their efforts are well-targeted and effective.

By choosing the right tool for the right situation, you can gather data more effectively.

Create engaging surveys and questionnaires with Formaloo

Understanding the questionnaire vs survey difference was the first step. Now, the next thing is to create one. But how? This is where Formaloo steps in.

Formaloo is a no-code tool that helps you create engaging questionaries and surveys in no time.

You can choose from a wide array of pre-made Formaloo templates or start fresh to create forms that resonate with your audience.
Head to this article to understand how to create free online surveys and questionnaires using Formaloo.

Sign up with Formaloo and start building better surveys today! Follow us on our YouTube channel for more useful tips and tricks.

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Survey vs questionnaire: Their key differences