Thing 22: Survey tools


Once, using surveys for research meant hours of designing, distributing and collecting questionnaires, and manually collating and analysing data.

Fortunately we now have a wide range of online tools to manage this process. In this Thing we will look at some options for creating and undertaking online surveys.

Why online?

Conducting surveys online can be time and cost saving and practical for many reasons, particularly when your research sample is geographically dispersed, you have limited resources to assist you, and you want to allow your respondents time and privacy to consider their responses. Here we will look at some of the common features you can expect to find in online survey tools, and compare a few tools for creating online questionnaires.


Online survey tools typically allow you to distribute your questionnaire via customised email invitation, by web link, or by embedding the survey on your website or blog. Some services also provide access to panels of potential respondents (usually at cost).

Collation and analysis

Survey tools automatically collect and tally responses to your questionnaire as they are submitted. Some tools allow you to easily analyse cross-tabulated data. Results are often organised and presented graphically using charts and tables. Most tools will even produce reports based on the survey results. You can share these results with other research stakeholders, including the survey respondents themselves if appropriate.

Survey tool options

The following survey tools are hosted in the cloud and are accessed via your browser. That means that no-one will need to install software to create or respond to the survey. All of the services listed here are free to use, but some have paid licenses for advanced features, and for surveys or sample sizes above a given limit.

Free and Opensource.If using Lime Service hosting, a free account allows unlimited surveys and questions, but collects only 25 free responses per month.You can buy additional responses (e.g. $10 for 100 additional responses or $200 for 5,000 extra responses) for any survey.

Google Forms Lime Survey Survey Monkey
Cost (as at publication of this post)  Free

Free and open source.

If using Lime Service hosting, a free account allows unlimited surveys and questions, but collects only 25 free responses per month.

You can buy additional responses (e.g. $10 for 100 additional responses or $200 for 5,000 extra responses) for any survey.

Basic (Free): 10 questions and 100 responses per survey

Select:(NZ$35 p/month)

Unlimited questions, 1,000 responses p/month

Gold: (NZ$480 p/year) Includes advanced question logic and text analysis

Question types Very basic (9 types) Basic (20 types) Basic licence provides 15 question types
Survey output CSV, TSV, Excel, Word, PDF CSV, TSV, Excel, Word, PDF, SPSS, XML, R, SPSS CSV, Excel, XML, HTML, SPSS (Gold Package only)
Data storage Online (Google Sheets provided by Google) Free hosting available from; Can also be downloaded and installed on your own server. Online (by Survey Monkey)
Total storage limit Same as your Google Drive Depends on hosting options Unlimited

In addition, the University of Auckland has access to Qualtrics, a paid-for survey site. If you are conducting a survey for / through the university, this is a very powerful option.

Getting started

There are many tutorials for getting started with these survey tools:

Google Forms
Create an online survey with Google Forms
Create an online survey with Google Forms (video)

Introduction to Creating Surveys in the Lime Survey Manual wiki

How to Create a Survey (text and video tutorial)

try-this-icon Try this

We encourage you to create a survey yourself using one of the free tools from this Thing. However, to complete this Thing we’d just like you to try out a couple of them (Google Forms and Qualtrics) from the respondent side. In other words, for this week’s task, please take the two following surveys and tell us what you thought of this 23 Things for Research course.

The first survey is not anonymous – it allows us to verify that you have completed this Thing. The second survey is anonymous. Please do complete both.

Survey Part 1 (Google Forms) *log in with your university Google username
Survey Part 2 (Qualtrics – anonymous)

Thank you for your feedback!

explore-further-icon Explore further

A collection of references about survey design methodologies, compiled by Virginia Tech University Libraries
Survey design bibliography

“Design surveys, collect responses, and analyse the data like a pro. These expert-certified best practices and guidelines will help you get the insights you need”
Surveys 101

“Survey response psychology is complex and there are many potential sources of measurement error that poorly designed surveys and survey questions can introduce”
Duke Instrument Design and Development Tip Sheets

“Learn about the challenges of designing a survey, some basic rules of question construction and the ways in which surveys can be administered”
Check, J., & Schutt, R. K. (2012). Research methods in education. Los Angeles, CA: Sage. Retrieved from


Parts of this Thing were adapted from 23 Research Things @ Melbourne / CC By-NC-SA 3.0

Header image: Robyn Lee / Flickr / CC Attribution NoComm NoDerivs 2.0
Icons: Everaldo Coelho and YellowIcon / GNU Lesser General Public License

This post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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