To conduct any kind of data analysis, you need to start with a data set. Data sets come in many forms, shapes and sizes, but are usually provided as a .csv (Comma Separated Values) or .xls (Excel) spreadsheet file.
There are countless datasets that are made freely available to the public focusing on any topic you can imagine and we have provided some great resources for Free Downloadable Data on this page.
However, sometimes you can’t find the data set you are looking for and need to collect your own data. Here, we review the three major internet platforms for collecting survey data, all with customizable interfaces and easy to use email distribution methods.
SurveyMonkey is one of the oldest online survey companies on the internet and provides a variety of products to provide data for research, ranging from free five or ten question surveys to large-scale paid population surveys of demographically representative panel samples. SurveyMonkey is very easy to use and has many help resources available to get started.
Their surveys are desktop and mobile optimized, which can help to increase response rates because more than half of users visit websites from their tablets or smart phone based on recent estimates.
They allow for many question types in the free version, including several multiple choice and open response options, and they have a premium version available that enhances the survey and IT help features available.
At the time of writing this post, the Basic paid version costs $25 a month and the Pro paid version costs $65 a month. For anyone working in HR, SurveyMonkey also offers a full-featured hiring platform that leverages their online survey technology to securely collect and process job applications.
Google Forms and Google Sheets
Google Forms and Google Sheets are another excellent option for creating online surveys to collect data and its companion program, Google Sheets, is a powerful cloud-based spreadsheet program that can securely store collected data sets.
In recent years, many companies have migrated from single-machine based word procession, data storage and computational software to cloud-based options such as those offered in the Google Docs ecosystem of programs.
Google Forms is a cloud-based data collection program that can be customized with numerous question types, including multiple choice, open response and ranking scale questions, making it versatile for addressing a wide variety of research questions.
Users can create private links to take the survey on computers, tablets or smart phones, and they can be embedded in emails sent out in Gmail and other email clients.
The respondent’s data is then conveniently stored in a secured Google Sheet, that can be easily exported to a .csv or Excel file to import into a statistical analysis software package like R, Python, Stata or SPSS.
Because Google Forms is an entirely free online platform, it does not have the same extensive email and social media distribution and tracking features as a premium program like Qualtrics, which we review next.
Qualtrics Survey and Research Suite
Qualtrics is a full-featured survey platform that also includes a wide range of email and social media distribution options and built-in statistical analysis and visualization tools. It is nearly as old as SurveyMonkey and is one of the world’s largest survey and data collection providers.
While Qualtrics does offer a free version of its survey platform, it is severely limited (e.g., 15 questions maximum, no data exporting allowed; click here for all limits) and the premium plans are recommended if you are planning on conducting actual research beyond a test project.
Their lowest tier premium plan, the CoreXM Standard plan, costs $22.50 per month (billed yearly), while their middle and upper tier premium plans require a custom price quote.
For most users, I would recommend the CoreXM Standard plan, which comes with 8 customizable question types, including multiple choice and open response options, 30 questions maximum per survey and unlimited active surveys. Qualtrics also has affordable pricing for demographically representative panelists who can be sampled by paying for each survey respondent.
Disclaimer: Please make sure to review all rules, regulations and laws in your home country about collecting data from human subjects, including data privacy, security and confidentiality issues (check out this page for more details). We are providing the resources on this website for informational purposes and are not responsible for their use or application for any purposes.