to old fashioned paper surveys:
surveys are also much cheaper and somewhat faster than telephone surveys and
again data entry is less expensive and possibly more accurate because the data
are entered directly by the respondents themselves, not by an interviewer.
A major problem with
web-based surveys is sampling. For research applications a random sample is
desirable and often essential, and researchers may simply not have a
comprehensive list of email addresses for people who drink fruit juices or go
Despite the huge
growth of the Internet there are still many people who do not have access or
choose not to use the Internet. There are also wide disparities in Internet
access among ethnic, socioeconomic and demographic groups.
surveys the sampling problem is no different from other types of surveys, it is
just that access to a population may be more limited for web-based surveys
because fewer people have access to the Internet than have telephones or home
Even with telephone
surveys and random number dialing through CATI a truly random sample is not
guaranteed. Although in many developed nations most people have a landline
telephone as well, probably, as a mobile phone, in developing nations the
landline is often skipped for direct purchase of a mobile phone and there is
usually no central directory for mobile phones. So CATI that uses landlines is
increasingly unlikely to connect with any population.
There are of course
other sampling problems with CATI surveys. Not everyone is at home when
telephone surveys are most likely, in the evenings and weekends, so there is a
significant non-response rate, and some people have no telephone at all. CATI
may still have the ability to reach most of a population in a country
where landline phones predominate but it will never be able to reach all
members of the population, which is what random sampling requires. So any
attempt to get a true random sample is almost certainly doomed unless the
population is well defined and accessible whatever survey method is used.
The rapid growth of
the Internet has impacted on so many different aspects of society that it would
be surprising if survey research were an exception.
Improved technology has also made web-based
surveys more practical. Until fairly recently email surveys were the
predominant means of carrying out Internet surveys. Now the use of Hypertext
Markup Language (HTML) forms in Web-based surveys are becoming the dominant
method of gathering survey data. These forms streamline the data collection
process and allow the entry of responses directly into a database. Since HTML
forms can be made programmable, this also facilitates real time error checking
which increases the accuracy of the data collection process.
The formatting capabilities of HTML also allow
the creation of easy-to-read and attractive forms that may improve response
rates. In addition, because HTML forms are programmable questions can be
randomly ordered and it is possible to tailor skip and branching options to
responses provided earlier in the survey so that a web-based questionnaire can
be made as flexible as a CATI interview.
While sampling may be an
issue for web-based survey research, many applications of the technology do not
present sampling problems. Examples include: companies collecting
customer satisfaction data, employersmeasuring
job satisfaction, educators collecting course evaluations and conducting
bloggers wanting to consult with their readers and event organizers
checking proposed attendance and meal and other preferences.
We offer something new in web-based surveys
and that is qualitative research on-line. This Delphi
based methodology has all the advantages of focus group research and few of the