Questionnaires and Surveys

Questionnaires and surveys are used to collect numeric data on attitudes and self-reported behaviour. In the main, closed questions should be used, supplemented with a small number of open questions where required. Different methods can be used to collect responses to questionnaires and some of their strengths and weaknesses are listed below.


Self-completion methods are the most common ways to collect data from questionnaires or surveys. These are best done with mainly closed questions.

  • Post
  • Internet/Online

Interviewer led

Interviewer led questionnaires or surveys are more commonly conducted where there are a greater number of open-ended questions. This helps to ensure the quality of responses in these answers as the interviewer can ask for more detail where required.

  • Face-to-face
  • Telephone


  • Quick, simple and relatively cheap to administer
  • Closed questions are easy to collect, compare and analyse the results
  • Open questions can be used to collect more detailed information
  • Can collect the views of a large number and range of participants
  • Anonymity of questionnaires may improve response rate for sensitive questions
  • Anonymity of questionnaires may improve the response from shy individuals who may not respond to other collection methods
  • Minority groups can be represented fairly
  • Analysis of coded responses is relatively straightforward and can provide powerful statistical evidence for the effectiveness of the programme


  • A low response rate can result in a biased sample (although this can be minimised)
  • Closed questions can restrict response categories and limit the depth of the evaluation
  • Pilot surveys are required to develop appropriate response categories for closed questions
  • Categorising and coding responses to open ended questions is time consuming
  • Development of effective questionnaires requires specialist knowledge and can incur high costs if attempted from scratch
  • Questionnaires can limit response rates by being perceived as 'boring'
  • No cues available as to the honesty of respondents' answers
  • Literacy skills required for responding can exclude some individuals
  • Lack of concentration and/or understanding in younger respondents can produce flawed data
  • Too many open questions can increase the time needed to analyse the results
Strengths Weaknesses
Internet/Online and Post
  • Relatively cheap to administer
  • Anonymity may improve response to sensitive questions
  • Questionnaire can be completed when convenient
  • Low response rate can result in biased sample
  • Risk of incomplete questionnaire or someone other than sampled person completing questions
  • No signals available as to honesty of respondent
  • Quickly reach many people over long distances
  • Less expensive than face-to-face
  • Less time consuming than face-to-face
  • Fast mode of data collection
  • Limited interview length
  • Respondents without telephone are impossible to reach
  • Call may come at an inconvenient time
  • Visual aids can not be used
  • Obtain richer and more detailed responses to open-ended questions
  • Observation of non-verbal responses possible
  • Best for control of field sampling
  • Best for complex topics and issues
  • Time consuming
  • Most expensive method to administer questionnaire
  • Specialised fieldworker skills needed