Research Tip: Create Surveys and Databases with Online Forms via Google Spreadsheets


What is Old?

SurveyMonkey.com has been my choice for collecting information via online surveys for the last several years. Its basic version is free, easy to use and automatically calculates the response percentages for each question. See a sample survey here.

What is New?

Google Spreadsheets is part of the online office suite called Google Docs. It recently launched a new feature which lets you create a form to accept data. The blog Google Operating System explains how the online forms work:

"When you go to the Share tab, there's a new option to "invite people to fill out a form". The form is very simple and can be customized by changing the order of entries, their labels and the type of answers. It's also a nice way to get feedback people who wouldn't normally collaborate on a spreadsheet. You can create forms from spreadsheets or using this URL. To keep track of your forms, add this gadget to iGoogle."

How to Use the Online Form?

This is an example: I created a simple form evaluating the exercise habits of the readers of Clinical Cases and Images - Blog. Click to see the form here and the resulting spreadsheet here. One drawback is that you have to re-publish the spreadsheet so that the responders can see the updated information via the public URL. The author of the spreadsheet who is logged in his/her Google account can see the updates in real time.

The form is embedded at the end of this blog post. See the instructions how to embed a form in your own page or website.

Summary

Overall, the online forms by Google Spreadsheet can be quite useful. Each form has a public URL which means that people entering information do not have to log-in to Google Spreadsheets to add data. It can be a simple way to collaborate on data collection from several research locations as long as the collected information is not private or confidential.

References:
Add Data to Google Spreadsheets Using Forms. Google Operating System.
Stop sharing spreadsheets, start collecting information. Google Docs Blog.
Image source: Google Docs Blog.

Related:
Online Form Builder Powered by Google Docs & Spreadsheet. Go2Web2.0, 03/2008.
Video presentations: Novel concepts and easy-to-use web tools for researchers. European Molecular Biology Laboratory, 2006.

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Updated: 03/21/2008

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