A survey is a type of self-report tool that is easy to administer, especially in today’s digital age, and gives researchers a means by which they can gather an immense amount of data in relatively short order.
Surveys are a commonly-used data collection tool for psychologists that allow them to gather critical information about a large group of individuals.
From gathering pertinent personal information about study participants (i.e., demographic details) to asking for people’s opinions about hypothetical situations to asking for background information about specific life experiences (i.e., Have you or someone you know been divorced?), surveys have broad applicability in the research world.
Surveys that are used for psychological research are standardized such that the results of the survey can be generalized to larger populations. Standardization also helps ensure that surveys are both valid and reliable measures.
Many different free online surveys can be used to gather data for psychological research. Below are five of the best survey tools currently available online.
As one of the most popular free online surveys, SoGoSurvey offers a lot of value for psychological researchers. In fact, their suite of features is the most extensive of the best survey tools on this list.
For starters, SoGoSurvey gives you complete options from start to finish for designing the survey (with dozens of question types), distributing it to respondents, and analyzing the data that’s collected. That means you can do everything you need right within the SoGoSurvey platform rather than having to find additional tools for survey design or analysis.
The free SoGoSurvey account offers a list of tools that’s quite extensive, including the ability to create unlimited surveys with unlimited questions, and the ability to embed surveys into a website or in an email, just to name a few.
What’s more, SoGoSurvey is the only one on this list that includes skip logic – the ability for respondents to skip questions that do not apply to them. Likewise, SoGoSurvey offers piping capabilities in their free plan, which incorporates a respondent’s answers into later questions for increased personalization.
You can administer surveys to up to 200 respondents in a calendar year, and the data collected can be easily exported in a Word document or as a CSV file. Free email-based customer service is included as well.
While not the most robust free online survey platform, SurveyMonkey definitely has the biggest name recognition of any platform on this list.
Though there are multiple paid plans available, the free SurveyMonkey plan has quite a few features that make it a great option for research. This includes:
- Unlimited surveys with 15 question types
- Up to 100 respondents per survey
- Survey templates with customization options for templates
- Up to 10 questions per survey
- Ability to collect answers via the web, social media, or email
- 24/7 email support
Additionally, the SurveyMonkey system has a friendly user interface that’s well designed and easy to use.
Just bear in mind that while you get real-time results from the surveys and can filter and compare results, you cannot export the data that’s collected on the free plan.
For example, you can create unlimited surveys using one of more than 200 easy-to-use and customizable survey templates.
Each survey you create can have up to ten questions, and you can view up to 100 responses per survey as well.
Surveys benefit from HTTPS encryption and can be embedded on the web or shared on social media. You can password protect the surveys you create, too.
On the downside, the free Zoho Survey plan only allows for one response collector, but responses to the survey can be seen in real-time and can be exported as a PDF.
In fact, the free version of SurveyPlanet boasts:
- Unlimited surveys with unlimited questions and responses
- Opening and closing survey messages to help guide respondents and bring closure to the survey
- More than 90 survey templates from which to choose
- The ability to share surveys on social media, email, and websites
- Anonymous surveys, data, and responses
- SSL security with the ability to duplicate surveys with one click
SurveyPlanet also supports surveys in 20 languages and allows you to delete unwanted participants.
Reporting measures aren’t as good as some of the other survey platforms, though, as you only get basic in-app reports without the option to export data.
One of the biggest strengths of SurveyGizmo is that you can create some truly engaging-looking surveys that are sure to grab the attention of respondents more so than typical surveys. You also have the ability to customize certain features, like the colors, fonts, and other styles used to create the survey.
Additionally, the free plan allows you to create unlimited questions for up to three surveys at a time, though each survey is limited to just 100 respondents.
Basic reporting is included as well as the option to export data to CSV.
Free templates are part of the package, too, though you’re limited to choosing between just six question types for the survey.
You can share the survey you create on social media or share it via a link, but there are no security measures offered, not even the ability to include a ReCaptcha to ward off spammers.
Pros and Cons of Using Free Online Surveys in Psychological Research
Regardless of which of these free online surveys you choose to utilize, it’s important to know that any survey inherently has advantages and disadvantages.
In terms of advantages, online surveys offer:
- The ability to capture large amounts of data very quickly.
- An inexpensive way to gather data – much less expensive than other data collection methods.
- Convenience for survey respondents to answer the survey when it’s easiest for them to do so.
- Wide applicability regarding the types of information that can be collected.
- The ability to automatically store the answers of respondents for analysis.
Additionally, with no interviewer present, respondents might be more likely to open up and answer questions honestly.
Of course, nothing is perfect, and even the best survey tools have their disadvantages:
- Surveys sometimes have a low response rate, and the lower the number of responses, the less representative the information is of the larger population.
- Surveys can pigeonhole respondents’ answers because the choices provided might not be completely accurate of the respondent’s experience.
- If the survey is confusing, long, or both, respondents might lose interest and provide fake answers (i.e., rapidly clicking through and selecting random answers).
- Sometimes, survey participants seek to answer questions so they appear more favorable in what is called the social desirability bias. For example, a survey respondent might report that they get straight A’s when they actually mostly get C’s.
- Even if surveys are given to a random sample of respondents, high or low response rates from certain groups can bias the study’s results, thereby limiting its generalizability.
- With no interviewer present, there’s no way to offer additional information, clarity, or instructions to respondents that might be confused
So, when selecting a free online survey to use for your research, be aware that even the best survey tools have their disadvantages. You’ll need to spend the necessary time designing and implementing the survey to ensure the data you collect is as useful as possible.
B.A. Social Studies Education | University of Wyoming
M.S. Counseling | University of Wyoming
B.S. Information Technology | University of Massachusetts
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