Using Google Forms for Research

Through my friend Edward, I recently got to know that Google Docs now offer forms for free.  The forms can be used to gather simple information such as “which of the following alternatives do you prefer?” and for more complicated forms. Forms can be embedded in emails or websites or you can direct respondents to your survey with a link.

I have tried it out for a draft of the survey I will use for data collection for my dissertation. Likely, the respondents to my survey will fill it out on paper, but I thought Google Forms could be useful for a trial version of the survey to easily be able to obtain feedback on the questions and structure. So far, the experience has been nice – except for the first time I filled the questions and realized after almost one hour’s work that I want connected to the Internet anymore and none of my changes had been saved… Otherwise, I found the tool very quick and intuitive.

You can add questions, select what type of answer you want (multiple choice, text, check boxes, scale etc), add headers and move questions around. The look is instantly professional and the backend allows you to see summaries of your questions with pie charts and percentages already calculated for you as well as the answers in a neat spreadsheet that is downloadable to Excel!

This tool opens up to so many opportunities, my mind just goes off thinking about all the cool surveys one could do!

You can see my questionnaire here – if you are a Ghanaian student, please do fill it out – and if you can remember to give me feedback on the questionnaire itself in the last section.

If you want to try this tool out, go to Google Docs, click on “file”, choose “new” and then “forms” in the drop down list. Happy research Monday!

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  1. Hi Kajsa,

    belated congrats for the birth of your daughter – the arrow is send forth, may you enjoy the bend… .
    I’d like to invite you to move beyond google docs, because I think it is too limited to allow asking innovative (eg sorting, ranking, array) questions for some of the more tricky concepts and correlations you are after (in addition, there are of course issues of data privacy, because respondents share their answers with you and with google). You will want to use more complicated question types to get at some of the motivations you are interested in. Have a look at limesurvey, which is a free and open source online survey tool which I had also build into my IASbuntu Ubuntu remix for African Studies (its time for a new version, I know…). I used it in my own PhD research, inviting people in Ho, Juaben and Gbawe to fill it in online. It worked very well, as it can generate basic analysis and graphs by itself and if you combine it with the free and open source R statistics software and the Deducer and / or Rattle interfaces, you can do high level quantitative analysis as well – even though I d hope your study combines this with a hefty dose of qualitative stuff, with more open ended questions….

    You can install limeservice on your own server for free, but I used their cheap hosting service and got good speed in internet cafes across southern/central GH!

  2. Hi Kwesi, thanks so much for your comment. I did think of using the free software tools that you were discussing but hesitant since I cant get over the Ubuntu installing hurdle on my mac 🙁 Will check out limeservice and maybe drop u an email!

  3. To link up as discussed yesterday. thanks so much. I have just received invitation to join the hack hackers group. will be there.
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