For students doing quantitative research within arts, humanities and social sciences, the questionnaire has always been an important tool. Online surveys are an easy way to collect data from respondents, and open up for easy data analysis. Many people, however, find the prospect of creating an online survey themselves daunting, but there are alternatives.
I’ve taken a quick look at three alternatives: two commercial (though free) solutions and one open-source solution.
One alternative is SurveyMonkey, an online survey hosting service. SurveyMonkey has both free and paid-for alternatives, although both require registration. Here, I focus on the free alternative (see the SurveyMonkey website for further details of the paid-for alternatives). The free service offered by SurveyMonkey provides a simple interface for question creation and allows up to 10 questions with response validation and up to 100 responses. The downside is that response data must be view on-screen, and few management/analysis tools. On the positive side, they do offer eMail support (one-day response time).
A second commercial option is SurveyGizmo, which again provides a free service in addition to paid-for services. The free service gives more flexible options than free SurveyMonkey; it offers greater flexibility regarding data export and analysis than free SurveyMonkey and unlimited numbers of questionnaires with unlimited numbers of questions and up to 250 responses per month. Perhaps less impressive than SurveyMonkey’s eMail support, support for free accounts is provided via user forums on the main website.
Another option is the free, open-source Unit Command Climate Assessment and Survey System (UCCASS) , which is a surveys system that in many ways resembles the paid-for variants of SurveyMonkey and SurveyGizmo, but for free. It features simple survey creation, unlimited numbers of surveys, questions and responses, access control, respondent-specific urls, response validation, result filtering and more. Sounds too good to be true? Well, the down side is that you have to have this software installed on a webserver. This, however, may not be so problematic given that the university may host this software if asked to do so by members of staff. Support for this software is provided by eMail and forums.
All of these products provide good, intuitive interfaces for survey creation, with features that enable easy data collection and anaysis. SurveyGizmo’s flexible options mean that this is the most likely choice for those wanting a free survey online for a longer project (like an MA thesis), whereas SurveyMonkey’s interface means that professional-looking surveys can be created in minutes. The non-commercial UCCASS is a heavyweight package that requires active support from the university (many universities do offer this service, examples here and here) if it is to be used, and in the absence of this, it is not really an option — a great shame.
Please note: This website is not affiliated with any of these solution providers, nor does mention of these constitute any recommendation of their services. This data is provided for information purposes only.