Paper based surveys advantages and disadvantages


Unsure which method of data collection to use? Take a look into a list of advantages/disadvantages and decide the optimal method for your research project. offers mixed (paper and web) survey data collection (self-service) solution. Create a paper survey and print it in minutes. Click here to try it 14 days for free


One of the main advantages of paper surveys is that they can generate much higher response rates than web questionnaires. [1] Additionally, the majority of respondents often believe that printed surveys are more anonymous than online surveys, which leads to the belief that respondents may be more honest on printed surveys. [2] Furthermore, printed surveys have the same formatting. This ensures that all respondents receive the same format and setting survey.

Further advantages compared to web surveys include:

  • Does not require tablets/mobile phones to complete the survey which reduces technological investment needed.
  • Easy to distribute the survey across large pool of respondents.
  • Surveys can be mailed by post.
  • Suitable for respondents that are not technology savvy (e.g. older people, disabled people, children) and surveying people in developing countries where technologies are not widely accessible


The primary disadvantage of paper surveys is that it requires higher labor and financial investments. This is especially true if your organization is fully managing the survey process in-house. However, you can avoid this downside by working with reputable survey companies. For example, at, we handle the majority of the labor involved and minimize the manual work required - we help you to collect and analyze responses much faster - just create a paper survey online, print it and fill it out. Paper survey responses will be automatically recognized and digitized for you to analyze it further. is self-service software therefore it is low-cost.

Other disadvantages include:

  • Difficult to use logic branches/skip logic based on participant responses as the paper survey can't dynamically change.
  • Requires human labour to review responses that have low confidence (e.g. illegible handwriting, invalid responses) or responses are not valid based on the set rules.

Mixed paper and web surveys approach

If you would like to used mixed approach of collecting data by both paper and web surveys, you can do that by using Once you create a paper survey, you can activate web survey with just a click of a button and start collecting data using both methods. Web surveys do not require any additional setup and you can see and export both web and paper responses in the same sheet.

This way you can eliminate web/paper disadvantages and use the best collection method as you see it fit. For instance, some employees that work from office may prefer web survey but for some field workers, paper surveys would be better suited.

Is the paper based data collection is the right choice for your organization?

This depends on your use case and if you would like to discuss it with us, you may contact us at to arrange a call or email conversation.

How to get started with paper survey data collection? offers a paper and pencil solution for your data collection needs. It is a cloud-based platform where you can design your survey using easy to use interface and print out the copies.

Below is an overview video how our platform works, from designing the survey and printing it to scanning and reviewing the results.

Would like to try it by yourself and see if it works for you? We offer 14-day trial, no credit card needed.

[1] Nulty, Duncan D. “The adequacy of response rates to online and paper surveys: what can be done?” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education: Vol. 33, No. 3, June 2008, 301-314.

[2] Dommeyer, C.J., P., Baum, K. Chapman, and R.W. Hanna, 2002. Attitudes of business faculty towards two methods of collecting teaching evaluations: paper vs. online. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 27, no. 5: 455–462

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