One response I got for last week’s query was about on-line survey services.  Are they reliable?  Are they economical?  What are the design limitations?  What are the question format limitations?

Yes.  Depends.  Some.  Not many.

Let me take the easy question first:  Are they economical?

Depends.  Cost of postage for paper survey (both out and back) vs. the time it takes to enter questions in system.  Cost of system vs. length of survey.  These are things to consider.

Because most people have access to email today,  using an on-line survey service is often the easiest and most economical way to distribute an evaluation survey.  Most institutional review boards view an on-line survey like a mail survey and typically grant a waiver of documentation of informed consent.  The consenting document is the entry screen and often an agree to participate question is included on that screen.

Are they valid and reliable?

Yes, but…The old adage “Garbage in, garbage out” applies here.  Like a paper survey, and internet survey is only as good as the survey questions.  Don Dillman, in his third edition “Internet, mail, and mixed-mode surveys” (co-authored with Jolene D.  Smyth and Leah Melani Christian), talks about question development.  Since he wrote the book (literally), I use this resource a lot!

What are the design limitations?

Some limitations apply…Each online survey service is different.  The most common service is Survey Monkey (  The introduction to Survey Monkey says, “Create and publish online surveys in minutes, and view results graphically and in real time.”  The basic account with Survey Monkey is free.  It has limitations (number of questions [10]; limited number of question formats [15]; number of responses [100]). And you can upgrade to the Pro or Unlimited  for a subscription fee ($19.95/mo or $200/annually, respectively).  There are others.  A search using “survey services” returns many options such as Zoomerang or InstantSurvey.

What are the question format limitations?

Not many–both open-ended and closed ended questions can be asked.  Survey Monkey has 15 different formats from which to choose (see below).  I’m sure there may be others; this list covers most formats.

  • Multiple Choice (Only one Answer)
  • Multiple Choice (Multiple Answers)
  • Matrix of Choices (Only one Answer per Row)
  • Matrix of Choices (Multiple Answers per Row)
  • Matrix of Drop-down Menus
  • Rating Scale
  • Single Textbox
  • Multiple Textboxes
  • Comment/Essay Box
  • Numerical Textboxes
  • Demographic Information (US)
  • Demographic Information (International)
  • Date and/or Time
  • Image
  • Descriptive Text

Oregon State University has an in-house service sponsored by the College of Business (BSG–Business Survey Groups).  OSU also has an institutional account with Student Voice, an on-line service designed initially for learning assessment which I have found useful for evaluations.  Check your institution for options available.  For your next evaluation that involves a survey, think electronically.

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8 thoughts on “On-line survey software

  1. Hi Molly,

    To help with your on-line survey tool evaluations, I thought you may find this third-party free account features comparison chart informative: ( is also a great resource for information on all kinds of free tools) and I also wanted to let you know that SurveyGizmo offers free Enterprise level accounts to students:
    If you ever have any questions just let us know via email, twitter (@SurveyGizmo) or on Facebook, we’re happy to be of help.


  2. Learning of other on-line survey software options gives readers and Extension professionals more options, Sharon. Thanks for sharing. Any one else have experience with

  3. Molly, does everyone in OSU have access to Student Voice, or is there a fee charged depending on one’s association with a specific college or department?

  4. From what I understand, an OSU employee can get access to Student Voice by talking to Rick DeBellis.

  5. Hey Molly,

    Even though this post dates a little I wanted to let you know about a new survey solution that is out there.
    People are still finding it hard to choose when it comes to survey tools. The existing survey solutions offer only a basic interface for survey creation, and there is almost no reporting available in most of them, except for basic charts and tables.
    That is why we created Eval&GO. Our customizable questions and survey layouts place great surveys easily within reach. And our data analysis features coupled with our report building features put us a step above the rest.
    We managed to offer many options and features only found in so called “elite” survey software tools, and made them available for everyone.

    Check out our free account and see for yourself what makes Eval&GO special.


  6. Pingback: Bloggers Series: Molly Engle on Evaluation is an everyday activity · AEA365

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