Online Survey Software
How it works
Using online survey software has become increasingly common and popular. Because this software is so common, accessible, and free, everyone from students to small business owners, to teens who want to poll their friends, use these programs to answer any questions they may have.
Free vs paid
There are dozens of companies who offer these programs and there are both paid and free versions available. The difference between the two is usually functionality related, and/or feature limitations on the number of users who are able to be polled. Some of the functionality limitations include things like restricting the number of questions that can be asked, the type of media that can be included in the survey (audio, images, video, etc.), along with the reporting generated once the survey is closed. Premium versions will have full functionality and will generate attractive final reports which aggregate all of the information collected in the study.
Students, especially, have taken a shining to using this type of software in school related work. They might be working on a project for school, or more seriously, masters students who have a thesis question to answer, often reference the results of the data that they've collected using polling software. As long as the questionnaire is formulated correctly and the people answering the questions are properly qualified to do so, the data collected can be powerful and can be just as valid as data provided in expensive industry reports.
The biggest downfall to using survey software is trying to get enough people to take your survey. This is by far, the most challenging obstacle to overcome. What good is a survey if nobody's taken it? The easiest remedy for this is to ask friends and family to take your survey. Post it on Facebook, Twitter, as well as any other social media sites you may have an account with. If you're polling a particular group, find out where these people hang out online, and post your survey there. Many groups have particular forums that they frequent, so if you can get to the proper source of your target market, it will make getting properly qualified answers all the easier.
Another thing to consider is how you phrase your questions when conducting a survey. This can often be a very challenging point, as you never want to introduce bias into your questions, as doing so could affect the results. Similarly, it can be difficult to interpret the data from your survey once it's closed. There might be flaws in your survey that are highlighted in the results, but might not be obvious on the surface. Be mindful of this, as it can be easy to miss, and consider that market researchers make a living off interpreting data, so these things are often not as easy as they first seem.
Proof is in the pudding
These pieces of software have become more and more available over the years which is strictly driven by market demand. So many people are using these programs because they are so easy to use, many are free, and they often deliver great results. As time progresses, their sophistication increases, with better reporting, live reporting, interactive charting, etc. This makes it all the more attractive to use in business reports, school reports, and more.