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Online Research and Web Based Survey Methods Essay


Internet research or web based surveys can be described as a set of ways through which data and information is collected using electronic tools (Bethlehem, 2009, p. 78). It can also be de described as basic research only that it is reinvented and re-imagined in the wake of new technologies especially the World Wide Web.

The advent of the technologies that enable rapid sharing and travel of information online has enabled online surveys to develop rapidly. The internet, though yet to be adopted as a preferred mode of doing research for both academia and business, its deployment is meant to improve data research through modification or elimination of the problems associated with traditional ways of doing research. There are many advantages associated with online research but the major one is efficiency in terms of time and costs.

Types of online surveys

There are many types of online survey. These methods exclusively use technology and especially the internet. The participants and the researchers rarely meet and questions are answered over the net. These methods used can broadly be categorized as convenience surveys and probability surveys.

Convenience surveys

This is a non-probability surveying technique. Most researchers may find probability research cumbersome and expensive hence they opt for the convenience surveys. These surveys involve people who are readily available to the researcher.

Most of them fit the researcher’s preference of characteristics and may come from a number of sources. Most of the participants of convenience surveys are self-selected. More often than not, they participate for interactivity and entertainment. They also may include volunteer panels that freely give their opinion on the topic of research.

Probability surveys

Unlike convenience surveys that are entertainment focused, probability surveys are intercept oriented (Bethlehem, 2009, p. 80). Marketing and public opinion research heavily depend on this method in their polling and research.

They use list-based samples where people are called randomly from predetermined lists of participants with the required characteristics. They are well-constructed surveys that take to account most of the requirements that credible research entails. Traditional research using this method normally produces very accurate results.

Similarly, internet research that uses probability surveys achieves very precise results. These surveys are conducted over the internet and they involve samples of the exact population of interest. These samples are very exact and represent the characteristics of the larger population. Also unlike in convenience surveys where volunteer panels are used, probability surveys use pre-recruited panels composed people who only meet the criteria that the research requires.

How to measure a survey quality

Any survey results must meet the quality standards that are set for that particular industry or profession. Before the quality of online surveys is discussed, it is important to understand the characteristics and/or issues that surround web based research (Sue & Ritter, 2007, p. 70).


Most of the respondents in online-based surveys tend to be younger people with a high income. The above characteristic concurs with a major demographic trend where many internet users are those below 35 years of age. It therefore means that surveys that are meant for a certain age bracket may not be undertaken by the right people hence putting its credibility to question.

Self-selection bias

Many of these respondents available online will participate or answer the questions if there is an incentive on offer. Without any incentive, they are likely to give the wrong information or decline to participate altogether. These respondents select themselves regardless of the researchers’ recommendations.

Response rate

Because they are under no direct observation, online participants do not feel the need to complete surveys. These surveys are characterized by high numbers of incomplete responses.

Measurement errors

These mainly occur from the researcher’s end. They include incomplete alternatives, confusing wording of questions and inconsistent order of appearance effects. The absence of the researcher compounds matters since respondents are likely to answer to wrongly constructed questions effectively giving inaccurate information.

In light of the above hiccups, the quality of online surveys is bound to be affected. Though not all web based surveys experience the above problems, it is safe to say that its easy to avoid the problems in paper based surveys.

Advantages of online surveys over paper surveys

Online surveys have numerous advantages over paper-based surveys. Most of them are associated with speed and cost. They include:

Easy set up

Because these surveys are carried out with the help of softwares, many researchers find it easier to carry out these surveys considering these softwares collects and to some extent analyze the data that is collected (Sue & Ritter, 2007, p. 67). These softwares also help researchers in selecting the sample to be used. Instant feedback associated with these softwares also helps researchers to achieve instantaneous results, which saves researchers of time and resources.


All the costs associated with paper surveys including postage and data entry are also eliminated. Additionally, web based surveys eliminate the need for the researchers to travel reducing transport costs and costs associated with assembling a probability sample. The communication gap that is sealed through the internet greatly reduces the costs associated with traditional paper based surveys.


It is easy for researchers to keep track of the respondents and may easily reuse them again. Similarly, the data that is analyzed can be easily imported to other programs and reused again.


Demographic inaccuracy

Researchers have minimal or no control over the accuracy of demographic information supplied by the respondents. Issues to do with age, occupation and place of residence are very difficult to verify on the internet. These may severely complicate the results of the survey hence giving inaccurate predictions.


Not all people have access to the internet. As a result, potential respondents whose opinion is critical to the validity of the surveys are locked out. Some of the respondents may not be computer literate which complicates the survey altogether.

Design guidelines for a survey

Because there is minimal contact between the researcher and the respondents, its important that the questions be kept brief to the point, be interesting and motivational to ensure they catch the attention of the respondents. Additionally, it is advisable to keep the contacts of the respondents for future reference or use. Though its difficult its important for a researcher to try and have some personal contact with some elements of the research.

Sources of Delays

The internet is vulnerable hitches that may cause delays in online surveys. They include network breakdowns like server lags, transmission lags, and access lags. Others include network breakdowns and personal machine breakdowns.


Internet survey is slowly replacing the traditional research methodology. Though it needs to undergo major reforms to ensure credibility of results, it is not in any researcher’s academic or business interest to ignore it.


Bethlehem, G., J. (2009). Applied survey methods: a statistical perspective. New York: John willey & sons.

Sue, V. M. & Ritter, A. L. (2007). Conducting online surveys. London: Sage Publications.

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"Online Research and Web Based Survey Methods." IvyPanda, 24 Apr. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/online-research-and-web-based-survey-methods/.

1. IvyPanda. "Online Research and Web Based Survey Methods." April 24, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/online-research-and-web-based-survey-methods/.


IvyPanda. "Online Research and Web Based Survey Methods." April 24, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/online-research-and-web-based-survey-methods/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Online Research and Web Based Survey Methods." April 24, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/online-research-and-web-based-survey-methods/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Online Research and Web Based Survey Methods'. 24 April.

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