Sometimes, individuals and businesses send out surveys and questionnaires that are designed to be completed without any interference from the researcher. In other words, the researcher doesn’t need to be there when the respondents are filling these questionnaires. These types of surveys are known as self-administered surveys or stand-alone questionnaires. 

When designing a self-administered survey, you should take extra care and ensure that the questions are easy to understand, and the survey has a decent layout. In this article, we will look at some of the most common types of stand-alone questionnaires. 

What is a Self Administered Survey? 

A self-administered survey is a data-collection process where the researcher is entirely absent when respondents are filling out the survey, hence the term—self-administered. In other words, the researcher sends out the survey to respondents with instructions on how they can fill it about, and waits for their responses. 

Most of the questions in a self-administered survey are open-ended questions that require the respondents to fully communicate their thoughts with little or no restrictions. One of the most common types of self-administered surveys are mail-in questionnaires. Online questionnaires sent out to respondents via email invitations is another example of a self-administered survey. 

Email survey

Apart from paper and online forms, self-administered surveys also come in the form of oral tests. In this case, the researcher gathers all the participants in a single location, gives them relevant instructions, and then leaves them to complete the survey within a specific time of the day. 

Importance of a Self Administered Survey

  1. It helps you to reduce the costs of data collection in research. For instance, instead of traveling all the way to meet up with research subjects or hiring face-to-face interviewers, you can simply send mail-in questionnaires to respondents and gather the data you need easily. 
  2. Self-administered surveys are more convenient for participants because they do not have to fill the questionnaires immediately. This can improve your survey participation rates. 
  3. Because research subjects do not have to fill and submit your questionnaire immediately, they can take their time to think about each question and fill in the best responses. This helps to improve the validity of your research data. 
  4. It also reduces research bias since the researcher does not have any contact with the respondents as they fill out the survey. This limits their ability to subtly influence the responses from participants physically. 
  5. Survey respondents enjoy better privacy with self-administered questionnaires. The absence of the researcher can make the respondent feel at ease and more willing to provide unique and unconventional answers.  
  6. Using self-administered surveys and questionnaires for data collection allows you to gather data from a large sample size spread over different geographical locations. 

Types of Self Administered Survey 

1. Written Self Administered Surveys 

  • Mail Questionnaire

A mail questionnaire is a quantitative method of data collection where the researcher selects a research sample size and then, sends the questionnaires to each participant via the postal service. The questionnaires are sealed in a postage-paid envelope and contain specific instructions on how they should be completed. After filling the questionnaire, the respondent sends it back to the researcher via mail.

Mail survey

Mail questionnaires are one of the oldest types of self-administered surveys. Till date, many businesses use this method to collect employee feedback and measure customer satisfaction. Mail surveys allow you to target specific audience segments as you have access to the complete name and home address of the members of your target population. 

Advantages of Mail Questionnaires 

  1. Mail surveys help you to cut down costs for data collection. While you can spend up to $5,000 to administer a medium-scale survey, you’d spend a lot more if you had to conduct the same process via telephone surveys or interviews. 
  2. Mail surveys do not need much manpower. In some cases, one person can post the questionnaires to all respondents. 
  3. It allows you to accurately target survey respondents and gather valid responses. 

Disadvantages of Mail Surveys 

  1. Mail Questionnaires have low response rates. Sometimes, only 3–15% of the people who receive these Questionnaires actually fill and return them. 
  2. Poor survey design can affect the entire data collection process.
  • Hand-delivered Surveys 

This type of survey works just like mail questionnaires. However, in this case, the researcher drops off the survey physically and then, goes back to pick up the completed form after a few hours. It is designed to be more convenient for the survey participants. 

Hand-delivered surveys are also called direct questionnaires because the researcher distributes them directly. They often contain close-ended questions with checkboxes that respondents tick to indicate their answers. 

Advantages of Hand-delivered Surveys

  1. It is more convenient for respondents as they do not have to bother about mailing the completed surveys back to you.
  2. The researcher can explain the instructions and purpose of the study directly. 

Disadvantages of Hand-delivered Surveys

  1. Hand-delivered surveys are time-consuming.
  2. You’d incur a lot of costs; especially in terms of logistics. 

2. Electronic Self-administered Surveys 

  • Email Surveys 

An email survey is a quantitative data collection process that is conducted via email. Email surveys use pure text known as ASCH to represent the questionnaire in the body of the email, and then the survey is posted to a curated list of email addresses. 

Email surveys are mostly made up of closed-ended questions. In the end, participants’ answers are exported to a prepared spreadsheet and tabulated. 

Advantages of Email Surveys

  1. You can send out email surveys to large numbers of people at the same time. 
  2. It is one of the most efficient and reliable methods of collecting data; especially customer feedback. 
  3. Email Surveys have high response rates because people check and respond to emails, frequently. 
  4. Businesses can integrate other communication materials in an email survey. For example, you can include a coupon, discount code or even promotional materials for your brand. 

Disadvantages of Email Surveys

  1. It can be difficult to get the email addresses of all the members of your target audience for your email survey. 
  2. The responses from email surveys can be unreliable; especially when there are incentives for completing the survey. In other words, people can simply choose any options because they want to enjoy the incentives. 
  • Internet Interviews

An internet interview is a set of questions written in HTML and added to a website. Respondents come across these surveys spontaneously as they interact with the website and they can choose to respond to the questions or not. 

Online interview

There are many data collection tools that you can use to conduct internet interviews for your target audience. Common examples of internet interviews include social media polls and online surveys. 

Advantages of Internet Interviews

  1. It is cheaper to create and administer internet interviews than other types of self-administered surveys. You can use free and paid web survey software to build your questionnaire from scratch and share with your audience. 
  2. You get real-time responses as survey participants vote on your online poll. 
  3. Respondents can answer the questions when they want to. 

Disadvantages of Internet Interviews

  1. It can be difficult to target a specific audience for your survey. 
  2. Low survey response rates due to poor distribution. 

Examples of Self Administered Survey/Questionnaire 

  1. Let’s say you are an e-commerce company that deals in baby clothes. After a customer registers and shops on your website, you can send a customer satisfaction survey via email to know how they feel about the overall shopping experience. You can even add a promo code or exclusive discount offers as incentives. 
  2. A home construction company can mail surveys or to their customers or send hand-delivered questionnaires to ask for service reviews. 
  3. To gather public opinion on social issues, you can create an online poll using Formplus and share with your social media community using our direct social media sharing buttons. 

Why Use Formplus to Create a Self Administered Survey? 

  • Email Invitations

Inviting people to fill your survey via email is one of Formplus multiple form sharing options for questionnaires and surveys. With email invitations, you can invite respondents to take part in your survey by uploading their email addresses. 

Sending out email invitations also allows you to track survey responses and prevent multiple form submissions. You’ll know when a submission is pending and when it is completed. Once your survey gets a new response, you can prevent the participant from accessing the survey again. 

  • Offline Forms

With our offline form feature, survey participants can take part in your research, even when they are in remote areas with poor or no internet access. All responses submitted in “offline mode” are automatically updated on the Formplus servers when internet access is restored. 

  • Mobile Forms

Respondents can view, fill and submit your self-administered surveys from their smartphones; without having to pinch out or zoom in on their screens. Formplus forms are mobile-responsive which means you can conveniently interact with surveys and questionnaires on your mobile device. 

  • Conditional Logic

Conditional logic improves the quality of data submitted in your surveys by allowing you to collect only relevant data. It hides and shows form fields to respondents based on their previous answers so they only have to view and complete fields that are relevant to them. 

  • Multiple Form Fields

There are more than 30 form fields in the Formplus builder which means you can collect different types of data in your surveys. From text input fields to e-signatures and even unlimited file uploads, Formplus gives you numerous options to collect data the way you like. 

  • Autoresponders

Once you receive a new submission of your survey or questionnaire, you can automatically send out confirmation emails to respondents. As part of the confirmation email, you can include a copy of the completed survey to eliminate any form of miscommunication. 

  • Form Analytics

The form analytics dashboard in the Formplus builder displays important analytics and metrics for your data collection process. Here, you can access form metrics like the total number of survey responses, the total number of form views, and the geographical locations from where form submissions were made. 

You can also build custom visual reports using the builder’s report summary tool. Simply click on the form field or data category to automatically display your data as custom graphs and charts.

Advantages of Self-administered Surveys

  1. Self-administered Surveys help you to save money off logistics and personnel. For mail surveys, you do not need any trained personnel; all you need is proper planning in terms of sampling, duplicating, mailing, and providing self-addressed envelopes for the returns.
  2. It is relatively easy to target respondents with self-administered surveys. 
  3. Self-administered surveys are designed for convenience. Respondents can fill them whenever they want to. 

Disadvantages of Self-administered Surveys

  1. Self-administered surveys have low response rates. For instance, very few people would be interested in responding to a mail survey when there is no incentive. 
  2. The researcher cannot couch for the validity of the responses from self-administered surveys. In online polls, for example, the researcher has little or no control over who fills the survey. 


The goals and objectives of your research should determine if you can opt for self-administered surveys. If you’re conducting a complex research, the researcher may need to supervise the data-collection process in person. Hence, self-administered surveys may not work.

Self-administered surveys are ideal for situations where there’s an existing relationship between the researcher and the target audience—for example, a fashion store’s customers. In this context, the audience will find it easy to complete the surveys, independent of the researcher. 

  • busayo.longe
  • on 9 min read


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