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Web-based Research & Surveys. Fuschia M. Sirois. A Research Ethics Board Educational Seminar . Web-based Research & Surveys. Outline Purpose Brief overview of the pros and cons of web-based surveys Group exercise Examining specific ethical issues and possible solutions

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fuschia m sirois

Web-based Research & Surveys

Fuschia M. Sirois

A Research Ethics Board Educational Seminar 

web based research surveys
Web-based Research & Surveys


  • Purpose
  • Brief overview of the pros and cons of web-based surveys
  • Group exercise
  • Examining specific ethical issues and possible solutions
  • Sample web-based survey
  • Questions and answers
web based research surveys1
Web-based Research & Surveys

Purpose of this seminar is to:

  • familiarize you with some of the ethical issues and concerns that arise when conducting on-line research
  • offer possible solutions to help you address these issues when preparing the REB application
  • provide a discussion forum for the exchange of ideas on how to deal with online research issues
on line surveys
On-line Surveys
  • Growing in popularity as a research tool
  • Many advantages
    • Low cost, large samples, specialized samples, less time for data collection and entry
  • Some disadvantages
    • Fluidity of virtual contact
    • Challenges for delivering compensation, incentives
online surveys vs mail surveys
Online Surveys vs. Mail Surveys

Working in groups, discuss & list

5 ways that on-line surveys are

    • similar to mail surveys
    • different from mail surveys
  • Focus on areas that are of particular relevance for conducting ethical research
  • Take about 10 mins.
recruitment advertising
Recruitment & Advertising

So you have a web-survey

    • how do you advertise it to your target population?


  • EX: The organization you wish to sample from offers to give you the email list of its members
    • Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act [FIPPA]
  • Get a short url (Web team)
    • www.uwindsor.ca/IBDStudy
recruitment advertising1
Recruitment & Advertising

Several options

  • Email
  • Newsletter (electronic or paper)
  • Online ads
    • Google adwords, Kijjiji.ca, Craigslists.com, etc.
  • Online forums, newsgroups, bulletin boards for target population
    • Request permission to post on boards
      • Facilitates better response and guards against removal of study ad
  • Community postings
informed consent issues
Informed Consent Issues
  • Consent implied by submission of survey (letter of information: LOF)
    • Clicking on agree demonstrates consent and links to start of survey
    • Include note to print out copy for their records
  • Don’t include LOF in email sent out
  • Suggest providing link to welcome page which then links to LOF
  • Set up either in Lotus Notes database
    • Includes UWindsor logo, easy to set up
anonymity of responses
Anonymity of Responses
  • Making survey responses anonymous
    • Don’t request personal contact info
    • Don’t add code to responses
    • Ensuring anonymity may increase response rate for certain populations
  • Right to withdraw?
    • limited
    • Make this clear in letter of information
  • If responses need to be identifiable, then new issues…..
confidentiality issues
Confidentiality Issues

If you need to track participants

  • Link data across two time points
  • User code
    • Self-generated?
      • The case of 5 Buffy123’s
    • Provide instructions for creating code

Choice of survey software/host

    • Where is the survey server located?
    • US-based survey hosts and the Patriot Act
      • Nature of the data should guide decision to use non-Canadian based servers
compensation incentives
Compensation & Incentives
  • Draw vs. pay per person
    • different issues
  • Optional draw
    • End of survey window with option to click mailto: link to send email
    • “Enter me in the Draw” in the subject line
  • Pay per survey
    • Beware of response floods!
    • Identify survey responses with code which is sent in email
    • E-certificates for payment
other issues
Other Issues
  • Explanation of study page
    • If participant “x’s” out, how do they get this information?
      • Program to automatically open explanation page if participant prematurely exits survey
      • Include a “leave the study” button on every web page of the survey that would direct them to the explanation page
  • Resources page with links
    • Same issues and possible solutions
  • Solutions limited by the capabilities of the software used
some final thoughts
Some final thoughts….
  • Ways to deal with these issues may change as technology/programming advances
  • However such changes may also introduce new challenges to be dealt with
  • Creativity and due diligence
resources for conducting on line research
Resources for Conducting On-line Research
  • Wright, K. B. (2005). Researching Internet-based populations: Advantages and disadvantages of online survey research, online questionnaire authoring software packages, and web survey services. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10(3), article 11. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol10/issue3/wright.html
    • Provides comprehensive list of on-line survey software and comparative table
  • Psychological Research Online: Opportunities and Challenges
    • http://www.apa.org/science/apainternetresearch.pdf
  • Marketing Research Association Ethical Guidelines for Internet Research
    • http://www.mra-net.org/pdf/internet_ethics_guidelines.PDF
  • The Association of Internet Researchers is an academic association dedicated to the advancement of the cross-disciplinary field of Internet studies. It is a member-based support network promoting critical and scholarly Internet research independent from traditional disciplines and existing across academic borders. The association is international in scope.
    • http://www.aoir.org/
fuschia m sirois1

Web-based Research & Surveys


Fuschia M. Sirois

A Research Ethics Board Educational Seminar