How to Make a Google Docs Survey

Poll anyone about anything

Macro shot of drawing green check mark in checklist box-go green idea

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One of the more common uses of Google Forms is to create a survey to send out to a group of people. You can use Google Forms for a variety of purposes including job applications, event registration, or to gather contact information. Surveys work a bit differently: you can ask a series of questions and solicit different types of responses, like multiple choice, long form answers, or drop-down selections.

Building a survey is straightforward and there a many option for formatting the type of response you want from multiple choice to checkboxes to a paragraph. You can also choose where to store the responses for later analysis. Google Forms is part of the company’s suite of software along with Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Here’s how to build a successful survey.

Starting a Google Survey

Google Forms started out as a featured embedded in Google Sheets. You can either access Forms directly or from a file in Docs, Sheets, or Slides.

Here are different ways to access Google Forms to create a survey:

  • Visit docs.google.com/forms and select Blank or a template.
  • From Docs, Sheets, or Slides go to File > New > Form (blank option only)
  • From Sheets go to Tools > Create a Form to automatically link it to a spreadsheet
Google Forms Course evaluation survey template

There are several templates that would work well for a survey if you don’t want to start from scratch. These include Event Feedback, Customer Feedback, Exit Ticket, and Course Evaluation. All four of these are about capturing feedback, but you can tweak them to fit whatever your goal is.

You can edit a template just as you would a blank form including changing the title, questions, and color scheme.

Whether you start with a blank form or a template, the interface is the same. At the top of the document are tabs for Questions and Responses. Beneath that you can add or edit the survey title and a description or instructions. You can also add an image with hover text or video in this area.

To the right of the questions is a stack of five symbols: Add question, Add title and description, Add image, Add video, and Add section.

Sidebar in Google Survey

The Response tab contains all the responses you’ve received so far. Here you can also toggle off Accepting responses, and add a message for users, if you have enough data. You can also opt into email notifications for new responses, store the responses in a Google spreadsheet, download a CSV file, print, and delete all responses.

Google Form response tab with Not accepting responses turned on

To customize the survey’s design, click the palette icon at the top of the page, then you can adjust the theme color, background color, and font. Next to the palette is a preview button (looks like an eye) so you can see how your survey looks and answer the questions to make sure it’s working correctly.

Palette and Eye icons in Google Survey

Next to preview is the settings gear icon which includes whether you’ll collect email addresses and if respondents can submit more than once.

Google Survey Question Options

For each survey question, you can choose the format of responses you receive. A blank form contains one question and you can add more by clicking the plus symbol on the right; templates have questions and answer formats filled in, but you can edit or delete any you don’t want. The default response type is is multiple choice, but there’s also short answer, paragraph, checkboxes, dropdown, linear scale, multiple choice and checkbox grids, date, time, and file upload.

Once you choose the type, you can further customize it, inputting multiple choice or dropdown options, adding “other” as an option, and enabling or disabling multiple answers.

Google Form question with message that says

For grids, you can also choose whether each row requires a response. For example, if you’re requesting feedback about a conference, you can have rows for each event, you can require respondents to rate each one. It’s worth digging into the settings for each question type.

For all questions, you can decide whether an answer is required or not.

Adding Sections to a Google Survey

If your survey has a lot of questions, you can add sections to break it up so as not to overwhelm respondents.

Click the icon button to the right of a question to add a section. The new section will include that question and each one below it.

Section markers in Google Survey

Each section has a separate title and an optional description. You can drag and drop questions between sections as needed. Tap the three-dot menu on the top right for more options: Duplicate Section, Move section, Delete section, and Merge with above, if you change your mind.

Adding Follow-Up Questions

You might want to add follow-up questions if user responds in a certain way. For example, if a survey respondent replies that they were happy with your service, you might ask them to provide a short explanation why. If they respond that they’re unhappy, you might have some follow-up questions to get to the root of the matter.

Another example is if you ask if a user likes to eat fish. If they say yes, you can send them to the next question, but if they say no, you could end the survey since the rest of the questions aren’t relevant.

To accomplish this, first add a question with a multiple choice or dropdown response. Tap the three-dot menu at the bottom right and select Go to section based on answer.

Go to section based on answer option in Google Survey

For each multiple choice or dropdown option, you can send the respondent to the next section, to any other section in your form, or to Submit form to end the survey for that user.

Multiple choice options in Google Survey

Allowing Anonymous Responses

By default, surveys in Google Forms are anonymous. If you want to know the identities of the respondent you can require them to fill in contact information as one of the survey questions. However, this won’t prevent users from inputting fake names or hiding their identity. Another way to track responses is by collecting an email address, which you can turn on in Settings. This option is also on the Send Form page (see below.) You can also then send a user a copy of their responses as confirmation. This only works if you’re sending the survey to a distribution group, not posting it on a website or social media.

Sending a Google Survey

When your survey looks good, check the settings before you send it out. You can limit users to one response, allow them to edit their response after submitting it, link to the results if you’re doing a poll, and change the confirmation message after someone submits their responses.

Click Send at the top of the page, and you’ll see four options:

Send via options in Google Survey
  • Email: Click the envelope icon and input the recipient email addresses, subject, and message.
  • Share the link: Click the link icon to copy the link to the form. You can also get a shortened URL that starts with goo.gl/forms.
  • Post it to social media: Click the Facebook or Twitter icon on the right.
  • Embed it on a website: Click the greater than/less than symbols to copy the HTML code. You can also adjust the width and height of the survey module.

Organizing Google Survey Responses

On the Responses tab, you can quickly see at the top how many responses you have.

There are four ways you can view the responses:

  • By question
  • By person
  • In a Google spreadsheet
  • Downloaded to a CSV file

Click Summary to see responses by question. Any questions that use grids are represented by bar graphs, while multiple choice questions get pie charts. Click individual to page through responses by person.

On the same tab, there’s a green button to connect the survey to a new or existing Google spreadsheet. If you’re using an existing spreadsheet, Forms will add a new worksheet tab with the survey responses.

Next to that is the three-dot menu which has an option to download the data to a CSV file.