Online vs. paper survey: Which should you use?

April 25, 2013

When your company or organization needs to find information or the opinion of a wide range of people, surveys are often the best way to achieve this. By designing a survey with unbiased and clear questions, an incentive for survey takers and an efficient way to upload the data – such as a data entry service – businesses can find accurate and informative data to determine how to make particular decisions bases off the survey results. 

When deciding to conduct a survey, one decision a business will have to make is whether to use a paper or online format. While it is, or course, possible to use both, many survey designers may prefer to only create one. In that case, which should be used? 

Paper surveys are often an effective method for times when not all participants will have access to a computer and the internet. The U.S. Census Bureau, for the reason, has stuck to paper surveys in order to ensure that low-income populations are able to provide information just as easily as those with access to an online survey. In the same light, not everyone can use a computer. For seniors that may have eye problems or difficulty typing, paper surveys should be used. Additionally, if your respondents don't check their email often, a company may be better off with a paper option, to make sure that it's not overlooked. 

For the same reasoning, those that may be bogged down by email may see a paper survey when an online version could be ignored. 

There are, of course, a variety of advantages to online surveys. If a population is widespread and physically mailing out a survey would take too long or be too expensive, online surveys can be used to receive information quickly. Online surveys also have more options than those on paper – designers can force respondents to answer only one question, or answer every question, for example. Online options also mean that there is no space limit – if a company is hoping for long responses from participants, there is limited space on a paper form, which is often not the case for a digital copy. 

In terms of obtaining data, however, most data entry services can enter and cleanse data from paper surveys quickly, in the same way data is taken from online versions. In all, both paper and online choices have their advantages and disadvantages. When choosing which would be more appropriate, remember to keep in mind what your respondents would prefer, giving them another reason for participants to provide the most accurate answers. 

Tab Service Company is a Chicago based company with over 53 years of experience as a data processing service provider.  We provide business with outsourcing solutions for document scanning services, data entry services and mailing/lettershop services.  As a SOC2-approved service organization, we apply industry-best practices to our approach with clients.