Surveys / Questionnaires

Surveys / Questionnaires

Surveys and Questionnaires are a set of written or verbal questions posed to a small representative group, to try to make generalizations of a larger population. In the context of patient and public engagement in health research, surveys and questionnaires should only be used if: the objective is for the data to inform a particular research decision (i.e. research priorities, questions, design, data collection approaches, interpretation of findings, dissemination of findings, etc.); and there is no reason for patient/public partners to interact, or for relationships to be built.


Surveys and Questionnaires can be useful for:

  • Gaining insight into opinions and preferences of a population around a research decision (e.g. research priorities, questions, design, data collection approaches, interpretation of findings, and dissemination of findings).
  • Collecting quantitative results that will inform a research decision.
  • Establishing a foundation in order to make comparisons to inform a decision in a phase or stage of the research process.
  • Gaining a better understanding of trends and changes experienced by people with lived experience of a health issue, in order to help inform decisions around: research priorities, questions, design, outcome measures, data collection approaches, interpreting findings and dissemination of findings.


You need to consider how you will reach people to answer your survey/questionnaire (e.g. online, telephone, mail, face-to-face), and any biases that may be introduced into your data because of your methods.


A survey used for an engagement activity should not be used as data in a research study. Patient/public partners are not subjects or participants in your research study.

It is also important to understand that using surveys as a consultation tool is very different from having patients fill out a survey as part of your research. When a survey is used as an engagement tool, questions are about a research decision (i.e. the research priorities, the development of the research question, the study design, the data collection methods, the outcome measures to be analyzed, the interpretation of the findings, the dissemination methods, etc.). In contrast, if the survey is collecting information from patients as part of a study (e.g. do you prefer one intervention over another?), it is, to put it simply, survey-based research instead of patient or public engagement.

 Additional Resources

1. Formal surveys: Participatory Methods

2. Questionnaires: Participatory Methods