There is a proliferation of online survey tools that can be used to undertake research. These include sites such as SurveyMonkey.com, QuestionPro and KeySurvey. However despite the fact it is now easier than ever to create online surveys it is valuable to consider the pros and cons of this method of data collection:

Pros

– Volume of data – Online surveys allow to the researcher to survey and collect data for a large volume of people.

– Ease of distribution – By publishing a questionnaire online it makes it easier to circulate it to the sample group that is being asked to participate in the study.

– Quick – The production and distribution of an online survey is less time consuming then other methods such as in-home interviews, telephone surveys or mail surveys.

– Customisable – Sites such as SurveyMonkey.com allow the user to be able to quickly and easily customise the layout, design etc. of the survey.

– Trackable – Ability to accurately monitor the number of respondents and validate survey responses.

– Inexpensive – Many online survey sites offer a free service or have a minimal charge.

– Removal of interviewer bias – Unlike interviews and face-to-face surveys this method removes the chance of the interviewer having any influence on the answers given.

– Structured questions – Ability to ensure the same questions are asked in the same way to all participants.

– Anonymity – Online surveys offer the potential for respondents to remain anonymous and therefore they maybe more willing to answer sensitive questions.

Cons

– Verifying identity – When using online surveys it is difficult to verify the identity of the respondents.

– Poor response rate – Online surveys are considered to have a low response rate. On average this is in the region of 30% (IaR, 2007)

– Quality of responses – Due to the nature of online surveys and the lack of an ‘interviewer’ it is difficult to ensure quality control of the responses given by the participants.

– Lack of clarification – Online surveys provide no opportunity for the respondent to clarify what is meant by a particular question. Therefore questions maybe misinterpreted impacting on the outcome.

– Ensuring a representative sample – It is difficult to ensure a representative sample as it is dependent on who responds.

– Templates – There maybe limitations to the software in terms of the ways in which the questionnaires can be designed.

Image c/o Marco Bellucci licensed under Creative Commons.

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