Using Google Docs for Research

It seems such a long time ago when I started my research project for my MA studies.  I was required to create a questionnaire, trial this questionnaire with my department at the University of Sussex, amend it and then finally get those participants to put ‘pen to paper’.  After collecting all the questionnaires back and interviewing teachers, I was required to transcribe all this information into Excel and then create a summary of the information.  It was a time consuming process and required a lot of hours sitting behind my computer to achieve this.  Then along came Google Docs.

It seems such a fantastic opportunity for any budding researcher (either related to English Language Teaching or elsewhere) to be able to create an online questionnaire, especially with Google Docs.  The best about using this online programme is that it is free and you don’t need to pay for the benefit of this service.  Furthermore, Google Docs creates a “Live Questionnaire” on the web that could be emailed, tweeted, or added to your website so that interested parties could complete it.  So, how do we create a Questionnaire with Google Docs?

Well, first things first.  You need to create a Google Account.  This is pretty easy.  Once you have created your account, you head over to Documents.  On the homepage of Documents, you need to click on Create and then scroll down to Forms.

After clicking on Form, your browser should show a very plain webpage.  If you have questions written on a more traditional word processor, you could either print this out and then transcribe the questions or you could copy and paste the questions to the online form.  The questionnaire function is great.  Authors of questionnaires will be able to incorporate a blend of ‘open’ or ‘closed’ question types.  For example, if you want participants to chose one answer from a range of possible suggestions, this is possible.  Should you wish to include suggested answers but also offer participants to suggest their own answer (usually seen as “Other” in questionnaires plus a bit of a gap for participants to pencil in their own answer), this is also possible.  Should you decide to let participants write up their own answer, this is possible (with both a short answer box or a larger paragraph answer box).  Additionally, there is the possibility of getting participants to answer a Scale question (usually related to a question on “How satisfied were you with the course?”: 1. Very Satisfied – 5. Very Unsatisfied).  There is one minor thing that is not included with Forms (which could be included in a possible update).  For example, there is no possibility of getting participants to rearrange possible statements in order of importance, etc.  However, on light of this, page breaks, headings, etc can be added to questionnaires so there is a great opportunity.

Suggested Themes in Forms

It should be noted that authors are also able to change the Theme of the questionnaire, to possibly give a more professional or clean layout.  Also embedding your questionnaire into a blog is great, but there are a few minor technical glitches that need to be ironed out before deciding to add to a webpage.  For example, when using a questionnaire that has a few page breaks, the length of the embedded questionnaire keeps its original length as if there were no page breaks.  Nevertheless, despite the aesthetic appearance of embedding into websites, Forms with Google Docs is a revolutionary online document that improves the possibility of research.  A summary is created incredibly quickly, with just one click of the mouse.

Finally, there is the opportunity for schools to incorporate Google Docs for students to complete online.  Why should there be a paper-based version of an end of course questionnaire?  Forget photocopying so much and get students to complete a questionnaire in their own time over the medium of the Internet.  Schools will be able to save time and money from this and get a very quick summary from learners about the courses that are taught.  A wonderful opportunity for those decide to fully exploit this tool.

There is a small video demonstrating the capabilities of Google Docs below:

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