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Online survey tools: A case study of Google Forms

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Online Survey Tools: A Case Study of Google Forms
1
Vasantha Raju N.1and N.S.Harinarayana2
1 Librarian, Government First Grade College, Periyapatna
vasanthrz@gmail.com
2Associate Professor, Department of Library & Information Science, University of Mysore, Mysore
ns.harinarayana@gmail.com
Abstract: In this paper an attempt has been made to explore the potential advantages of web-
based survey tools for data collections and analysis. It also explains how web-based survey can
be designed and developed for data collections using Google Forms. A sketchy comparison in
the paper provides snapshots of some of the popularweb-based survey tools. The paper concludes
by discussing the technological and privacy issues involved in web-based surveys.
Key words: Online Survey Tools, Web-based Survey Instruments, Google Forms,
Questionnaire Design
1. Introduction
Online survey tools or web-based survey tools have become common data collection instruments
in today’s networked environment. Researchers in academia and marketing use the online
survey tools for data collections. The advantage of web technology has come in handy in
designing, developing and obtaining users response in a simpler way. The origin of the Web-
based survey can be traced backto thetelephonic interview, Fax and e-mail surveys (Wright,
2005). Today, the web-based survey tools have replaced its predecessors successfully and
efficiently and have become one of the major tools for conducting survey research.
The application of web-based survey tools have transcended to its predecessors and applied in
almost all fields of study to conduct research (Zhang, 1999). There are a plethora of instruments
available. In a comprehensive study by Kay & Johnson (1999), more than 2000 web-based
1
Citation for this Article:
Vasantha Raju N., & Harinarayana, N.S. (2016, January). Online survey tools: A case study of
Google Forms. Paper presented at the National Conference on "Scientific, Computational &
Information Research Trends in Engineering, GSSS-IETW, Mysore.
survey tools in 59 areas of study were identified. The personal observation of the authors of this
paper shows that more than 20 requests in LIS-Forum a Listserv of LIS community operated
from India - to participate in online surveys in the past six months. This trend indicates the
growth and development of online survey tools.
The web user population has been increasing day by day and has become theprimary medium for
identifying and accessing information. The presence of huge population on the web has made
web-based survey tools an important mode of data collection for research and thus became the
most widely used data gathering method. In India also,the Internet users are increasing
exponentially in recent times. An estimate shows that there are 243 million users by 2014 which
represent 19.19% of India’s population
2
. This situation has created a fertile ground for
conducting online research as well use web based online survey for doing research in academia
as well marketing research.
2. Online Vs. Other Survey Tools
As said earlier, the developments in the technological fronts have offered many opportunities for
designing and developing user-friendlyweb-based questionnaires. The other survey tools such as
face to face survey, telephonic interviewing methods, and e-mail survey methods have some
inherent limitations. The adversaries of such tool includehigh cost, wastage of paper, long travel,
time consumption both for researchers and respondents and so on. In an interesting
observation,Lin & Wang (2015) found that web-based surveys are more reliable than face to face
surveys. In an another study by Cobanoglu, Warde & Moreo (2001), it was found that compared
to mail and fax based survey methods, web-based survey method had an upper hand regarding
response speed, costs, response rate and variable costs. Table1 provides the details on how online
survey tools or web-based survey tools are beneficial compared to other methods of survey
research.
Table-1: Comparison of Mail, Fax and Web Surveys3
2
http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/india/#
3
Adapted from “A comparison of mail, fax, and web based survey methods” by Cihan Cobanoglu, Bill Warde, and
Patrick J. Moreo, 2001, International Journal of Market Research, 43, p. 407.
Factor
Mail
Fax
Web-Based
Coverage
High
Low
Low
Speed
Low
High
High
Return cost
Preaddressed/prestamped
800 return fax
number
No cost to the
respondent
Incentives
Cash/Non-cash incentives can
be included
Coupons may be
included
Coupons may be
included
Wrong address
Low
Low
High
Labour needed
High
Medium
Low
Expertise to
construct
Low
Medium
High
Variable
cost/Each survey*
About $1.00
About $0.50
No cost
*These were the estimated costs for a 4-page survey that has a population in the U.S.
3. Online Survey Tools
There are many online survey tools available on the web freely as well as proprietary
versions. Capterra
4
- a free online website that helps for business firms to identify right
software for their organizations - lists almost 200 free and commercial web-based survey
tools. This number is an indication of thegrowthof web survey tools for research in marketing
and academia. Table 2 listspopular web-based survey instruments.
Table-2: Comparison of a Few Well-Known Online Survey Tools and their Salient
Features
Free/Proprietary
Features
Limitations
Free/Proprietary
Well designed, pretty easy to
use, and one can embed
surveys.
10 questions
100 respondents
15 question types
Light theme customization
andtemplates
The free
version
offersvery
little.
$ 26/Month
4
http://www.capterra.com/about
5
https://www.surveymonkey.com
Free/Proprietary
Features
Limitations
Free/Proprietary
Unlimited questions
Unlimited answers
Data export
Custom design themes or
choose from templates
Basic reporting
Pro Version
$20/Month
Google Forms7
Free
Unlimited surveys
Unlimited respondents
Survey answers and data are
automatically collected in
Google Spreadsheets
Lots of theme options
Add your custom logo
Add images or videos
Skip logic and page branching
Embed survey into emails or
website
Add collaborators
100% free!
Data privacy
Proprietary
Recurring survey for follow-
ups
Automatic remainder of non-
respondents
Provides third party data for
benchmarking
No free version
$ 25/Month
Free/Proprietary
Unlimited surveys
15 survey questions
150 responses
Cross Tab reports
Easy editor
Personalized survey questions
$39/month
6
http://www.typeform.com
7
htpp://www.google.com
8
https://www.clientheartbeat.com
9
https://www.zoho.com/survey/
Source: http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2014/11/10/best-online-survey-tools
4. A Case Study of Google Forms
The Google Forms is a cloud-based data management tool used for designing and developing
web-based questionnaires. This tool is provided by Google Inc
10
., andfreely available on the web
to anyone to use and create web-based questionnaires. The anywhere-anytime-access and other
advantages (unlimited surveys, 100% free) have made Google Forms a popular product in online
survey research. Helia Jacinto
11
of theUniversity of Lisbon says about Google Forms that I
have used Google Forms in a survey (for a research project). It comprised over 30 questions and
aimed at gathering data from specific students from elementary schools in the south of Portugal.
The survey link was disseminated trough email and trough the schools board. We have over 1200
responses in a spreadsheet, which are being organised and analysed by a colleague specialized
in such data analysis. We decided to use Google Forms because it seemed quite easy to build the
questionnaire. Overall, the team thinks it is a good resource and worked just fine for what we
needed”.
The following section explains the stepsinvolved in using Google Formsfor web-based survey.
The authors took a research study conducted by one ofthem as an example for explaining the use
ofGoogle Forms. The topic requiresthe data regarding employability status of graduates,
usefulness of LIS skills in employment. Each step starting from designing and developing web-
based survey tools to completion of the survey and analysis of the data is discussed.
Step-1: Design and Developing Web-BasedQuestionnaire
The Google Forms provides an easy-to-use webinterface for designing and developing web-
based survey questionnaires. Figure 1 shows the web questionnaire design interface. The
Google Form provides various options for capturing the data from the multiple answers. For
example, one can have multiple choice options, check boxes, scale, grid, text, and so on. The
designer (researcher) can set up the exact number of questions required to be collected. The
template option provides built-in templates for giving anaesthetic look for the questionnaire.
Figure2 shows the final output of the web-based questionnaire designed for data collection on the
10
https://docs.google.com/forms/
11
http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Helia_Jacinto
topic What are they now? A survey of University of Mysore Library and Information Science
(MyDLIS) graduates of 2000-2004”.
Fig-1: Google Forms Questionnaire Design Interface
Fig-2: Google Forms Completed Web Questionnaire Ready for Hosting
Step-2: Web-Based Questionnaire for Data Collection Hosted on the
Web
Once the questionnaire is ready, it needs to be hosted on the web. One can generate automatic
Web URL for the questionnaire and send the link to the intended participants (study sample) of
the survey. Usually online forums, social networking sites such as Facebook and e-mail contacts
are used for sending web questionnaire. Figure2 shows the web version of the questionnaire that
was accessed through the web URL
12
by the intended participants to fill the online survey. The
researcher posted a message on the LIS-Forum on 30th April 2015 and requested the members of
12
http://goo.gl/forms/RrwO9gQU9j
the forum to participate in the online survey (See Figure 3). In the interest of reaching out wider
participants, simultaneously the web link was also shared via Facebook (See Figure-4).
Fig-3: Request Sent via LIS-Forum for Participating in the Survey
Dear Sir/Madam/Friends
I have taken up a small survey on “What Are They Now? A Survey of University of Mysore Library and
Information Science (MyDLIS) Graduates of 2000 to 2014” to understand the employability status of
graduates, usefulness of LISc skills in employment and also to obtain on-field MyDLIS graduates
feedback on MLISc Course and its future perspective.
The University of Mysore MLISc graduates who have passed out from 2000 to 2014 can participate in
this survey. Through this forum I kindly request those who have completed their MLISc degree from
the University of Mysore from 2000 to 2014 to participate in this survey. Participation in this survey is
anonymous.
Following link will lead you to the survey: http://goo.gl/forms/RrwO9gQU9j
This survey is very brief and takes 5 to 10 minutes to complete. If you have any questions about the
survey, please contact me at:vasanthrz@gmail.com
Please complete the survey by May 8, 2015. Your assistance in providing invaluable information about
this topic is much appreciated.
Fig-4: Request for Participation in the Web Survey in Facebook
Step-3: Data Response and Data Coding Sheet
As the request for participating in the web survey was sentviaLIS-Forum and Facebook, there
were some queries via e-mail, and some of the participants even shared the web link on their
Facebook page. More than 71MyDLIS LIS graduates responded to the questionnaire through the
web. Figure 5 depicts day-wise data collection of the web survey. One of the advantages of the
online survey is having the real-time data on the number of participants participated in the survey
on the daily basis.
Fig-5: Day-Wise Data Response Rate
Another major advantage as mentioned elsewhere in this paper is that the respondents’ data is
available in the format suitable for analysis. The researcher need not key-in respondent data
manually and thus the data coding error is minimized. The Google Forms records the respondent
2
13
8
4
10
13
5
4
5
2
1 1 1 1
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
30/04/2015
01/05/2015
02/05/2015
03/05/2015
04/05/2015
05/05/2015
06/05/2015
07/05/2015
08/05/2015
09/05/2015
10/05/2015
11/05/2015
12/05/2015
13/05/2015
14/05/2015
15/05/2015
16/05/2015
17/05/2015
18/05/2015
19/05/2015
20/05/2015
Number of Respondents
Date
Day-Wise Data Response Rate
data in its spreadsheet and provide anopportunity to export to other statistical packages for
analysis, if required. Figure 6 shows the data which is in analyzable format.
Fig-6: Data Response Automatically Stored in Google Spreadsheet
Step-4: Data Analysis and Graphical Representation of Data
As mentioned in this paper, the Google Forms allow data analysis and graphical presentation
online. Once the web questionnaireis filled online, automatically the data will be recorded in
Google spreadsheet in an analyzable format and allow for tabulation and graphical representation
of data. Figure 7 shows the responded data in a graphical presentation as well in descriptive
statistics. Graphics and Descriptive statistics can be easily importedintoanother format such as
MS Wordetc.
Fig-7: Graphical Presentation of Samples in Google Forms
5. Issues involved in Conducting Online Surveys
Though the advancement in web technologies and users access to the Internet has made web-
based surveys easier,some issues needto be carefully looked into while planning and conducting
web surveys. Questions about sample selections, technological variations, low response rate,
privacy and security issues (Evans & Mathur, 2005; Zhang, 1999) have remained important
questions to be addressed while conducting online surveys. In developing countries, where
Internet penetration is still not widespread and low compared to developed countries, identifying
potential sample for theweb-based survey may prove to be ahorrendous task. The privacy and
security issues and technological variations have becomemore important matters since there are
no strict policies or monitoring systems to address these problems in countries such as India.
6. Conclusion
The Online surveys or Web-based surveys have become important because of lesser cost in
administrating questionnaire,ability to reach out to alarge population, geographical and temporal
advantages, reaching unique population easily and other benefits. The study shows how theweb-
basedsurvey is used for data collection fora small study in library and information science using
Google Forms. The free availability of the tool and automatic recording of user response in its
spreadsheet have made data collection and analysis simple. In a country like India where
internet user base is increasing day by day web-based survey tools may become obvious choice
for survey research.
References
Cobanoglu, C., Warde, B., & Moreo, P.J. (2001). A comparison of mail, fax and web-based
survey methods, International Journal of Market Research, 43, 405-10.
Evans, J.R., & Mathur, A. (2005). The value of online surveys. Internet Research, 15 (2), 195-
219.
Fleming, L.M., & Bowden, M. (2009). Web-based surveys as an alternative method to traditional
mail methods, Journal of Environmental Management, 90, 284-292.
Kaye B.K. & Johnson T.J. (1999).Research methodology: Taming the cyber frontier. Social
Science Computer Review, 17, 323-337.
Wright, K.B. (2006). Researching Internet-based populations: Advantages and disadvantages of
online survey research, online questionnaire authoring software packages, and web survey
services. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10(3). Retrieved from
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2005.tb00259.x/full
Zhang, Y. (1999). Using the Internet for survey research: A case study.Journal of the American
Society for Information Science and Technology, 51(1), 57-68.
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