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Advantages of Online Surveys

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Introduction

Advantages of Online Surveys

Disadvantages of Online Surveys

Designing the Questionnaire

Creating the Questionnaire

Data Collection

Data Analysis

Getting Good Data

Ethical Issues and "Netiquette"

Putting it all Together

References

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Data Collection Efficiency and Quality

The greatest strengths of Internet survey data collection are the potential to collect a large amount of data in a relatively short amount of time, and the elimination of the necessity for researchers to enter or process the data. After creating the questionnaire, placing it online, and recruiting subjects, a researcher’s primary data collection efforts are complete. Hundreds of respondents can fill out the survey within a matter of days, and all of these responses can be automatically inserted into a database such as Microsoft Access. Data from web-based questionnaires can also be automatically validated; for example, if a data value is entered in an incorrect format, or outside a defined range, the web-based program can return an error message requesting the respondent to enter the data correctly and resubmit the questionnaire. If such validation capabilities are used, the researcher need not worry about issues of missing or out-of-range responses, and can proceed directly to preliminary analysis of the data. (It should be noted, however, that automatic data validation cannot guarantee the veracity of respondents' answers.)

Questionnaire Flexibility

In addition to its efficiency, web-based data collection can be remarkably flexible, allowing such bells and whistles as randomization of question order and complicated skip patterns. Researchers can also tailor each questionnaire to individual respondents. For example, a graduate student at the University of Washington used a web-based questionnaire to collect data on courtship patterns (McDowell, 2001). The first two screens of the questionnaire gathered background data about the subject’s relationship; the web-based program then used this data to construct an individualized graph with the appropriate axes for respondents to indicate the turning points of their relationship. Such automated processes allow for personalized, yet efficient and private, data collection procedures.

Gathering Data on Rare or Deviant Phenomena

If you are interested in rare populations (e.g., people with a specific illness, opposite-gender twins, African-American Jewish women), online survey techniques allow you to draw responses from all over the world, resulting in a much larger sample size than you could gather via traditional methods. If your research involves deviant phenomena (e.g., alcoholism, cheating on one’s partner), the privacy afforded by the computer may make it easier for respondents to admit to socially proscribed feelings or behaviors.

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Last updated January 29, 2008.
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