Intro to Online Surveys

When it comes to taking a Research Methods course, many students choose to use the General Social Survey (GSS) because it has a wide variety of publicly available data ready for the download. The GSS is a great resource, but only for those whose topic aligns with the questions on their site. If a students project revolves around a topic that has not been covered in depth by the GSS, then they will need to collect their own data. Collecting ones own data can come in several methods, but for those wanting more generalizable data from a larger group of people the best way to go about this is to send out an online survey.

Google Forms (

Collecting ones own data can be a daunting task so choosing the right tools is imperative. Google Forms allows users to create surveys and quizzes with a user-friendly layout and a multitude of options and features. Survey Monkey is a site that promotes very similar survey-making features (and then some), but they charge users once they have created a certain number of questions or add special features. Google Forms is a quick and easy site that allows you to add as many questions as you would like to your survey and change the design and layout at any time without charge. The options for question formats are shown below; short answer, paragraph, multiple choice, checkboxes, dropdown, file upload, linear scale, multiple choice grid, date and time. You can also attach videos or pictures to a question using the toolbar furthest to the right.

Finding Survey Respondents

Once you have created your survey, you can either send them out via email with the survey URL from Google forms to the email list you have gathered. Or if you do not have an email list, you can use Amazon Mechanical Turk to collect respondents quickly. This site maintains a database of hundreds of thousands (or more?) of individuals all over the world who do small digital tasks (like take surveys!) for small fees (like 20 cents). Doing this can allow you to gather many responses, sometimes hundreds in only a few hours. But it does cost a little bit, and the more questions in your survey the more you might want to pay the survey takers. To learn more about Amazon Turk and how to upload your survey into the site, check out my next blog post!