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Forms & surveys


Survey tools

At York there are two main survey tools: Google Forms and Qualtrics.

In the slides below we take a look at how they work, and consider the respective pros and cons of each.

Google Forms

Google FormsGoogle Forms is part of the Google Apps for Education suite.

It is great for simple forms and surveys and has the benefit that the survey can be locked down to University of York members as a whole, as well as to specific individuals. 

Responses can be fed in real time to a Google Sheet.


Qualtrics​Qualtrics has far more question types than Google Forms, with advanced options when it comes to structuring and branching your survey. It can also use distribution lists and pull across embedded data from such lists while maintaining anonymous responses.

Designing a survey - practical considerations

When putting together a form or a survey, there are a few things to consider. In terms of conducting research, you will need to select an appropriate balance of quantitative and qualitative questions, and the sort of questions you will need to ask will vary according to your discipline. However, there are also some broader principles of design that you bear in mind:

What's the aim?

What is it you're trying to achieve? Get a clear understanding of what information you actually need. It will inform your choice of tools, your question design, and your analysis.

What's essential?

Don't waste people's time on redundant questions! The longer your survey, the less likely people will get to the end of it. Just focus on collecting what is absolutely necessary.

How will you analyse what you collect?

What methods will you use to crunch the responses? This will inform your question types.


What will you ask?

How you ask a question will affect the response you receive. Make sure you're asking what you think you're asking. Don't be afraid to ask other people; it's a survey after all!

Lock down the possible answers to your questions to give yourself something you can count without having to read every single response...

How sensitive is the data you're collecting?

Don't ask for data you don't need. And if you're collecting personal or sensitive information, you need to think seriously not only about the questions you ask but also about the way you ask them, the tools you use, and the ways you'll be using the data afterwards.

 Information security

How will people complete your survey?

What's your distribution plan? Or are you just going to spam people with a link they'll never click? Who's allowed to take your survey, and will you allow them to fill it in more than once? Do you know in advance who you're targetting, and if so, can that help you to cut down the questions in your survey? Are people completing the survey online or on paper? Desktop or mobile? If it's a long form, will they be able to take a break from filling it in? Will you send reminders? How many responses will you need?

What tool will you use?

If you're using a survey tool like Google Forms or Qualtrics, which can best accommodate your survey design, your distribution plan, and your subsequent analysis?

How will you structure your survey?

If a respondent doesn't need to see a question, don't ask them it. You can use branching in a survey to reduce the number of irrelevant questions served up. But the survey still needs to flow logically, and you'll need to test every eventuality. Is everyone seeing the questions they need to see?

Does your survey work?

Test everything. Read and re-read any introductory text to make sure it makes sense. Test that the questions are understandable. Do some test distributions. Get other people to test it. Gather some test data and make sure you can do what you need to do with it. The last thing you want is for people to not complete your survey because they're frustrated with it, and the second last thing you want is a load of responses that don't make sense to you.

Distribute your survey!

Send it to people and hope. If you need to send reminders, send them. But avoid spamming people. If you spot any problems with your survey once it's released, you'll need to be careful that any modifications don't invalidate the results you've already collected.

Data sources

How do you get hold of data and statistics? Take a look at our guide to the different data sources available:

Crunching data

It's one thing finding some data, but you probably need to interrogate it or manipulate it in some way...

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