Picking the right survey tool for your research project

If you're preparing to collect information from people as part of your research project, you'll likely discover that there are dozens of digital tools and services to use. 

If you’re not sure what type of survey tool/service works best for you, here are some things to consider:

Does the tool let you ask different types of questions?

Depending on what you want to collect from people, a service that lets you create a variety of question types — multiple choice, short answer, radio buttons, etc. — would be best suited for this.

Is the tool easy for others to access and use?

If you want a ton of great results, make sure that your survey doesn't have friction — meaning, any obstacles that prevent them from easily completing it. Stick to tools that have a simple design, and offer mobile-friendly layouts. Most form tools generate a simple link that you can post on social media, text, email, or share with others however you wish. Be sure to test it yourself to ensure that the survey/form link works! Also test to make sure it's legible and simple to type, select checkboxes, and submit the response.

How do you plan to analyze your results?

Do you want the service you’re using to do some of that work for you, or do you plan to just analyze it all your own way? Or, perhaps both? For example, Survey Monkey has some analytics tools so you can get a general idea of how people are answering your survey.

How do you want the data?

Do you want to be able to export it as a PDF, or download it as a spreadsheet that you can then analyze in Excel/Numbers/etc.? 

How confidential is the information you’re collecting?

If you’re asking about very private or personal information, first of all, consult with a lawyer or a research ethics governing board. But after that, make sure the service stores the data in encrypted databases. I’ve personally never had to worry about this but it may come up in some of your research!

Recommendations

My personal favorite form/survey tools are Google Forms, which is totally free and part of the Google Drive suite, and Survey Monkey, which has some robust features, although some of those are premium. There are many great survey tools out there, though, so pick the one that works best for you!