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On-line Research Methods

October 29th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

I have written before of the importance of lurking as a method of informal on-line learning. One of my favourite lurking sites is the Becta ICT Research network.

There has been a recent discussion of resources on on-line questionnaires. And one of the recommended resources is the University of Leicester Exploring online Research Methods on-line site. Resources like this give me faith in what we are doing. sadly all rights are reserved. But it is freely available regardless of whether you are an enrolled student.

I greatly liked the section on sampling which says

“Accessing respondents is a key concern in online questionnaires. As Coomber (1997) has highlighted, there is little point in setting up an online questionnaire and passively ‘waiting’ for eligible respondents to find the site: more active enrolment is needed to encourage users to complete an online survey….As the use of the internet increases in the general population, and the novelty of responding to online questionnaires is wearing off, getting online users to complete online questionnaires is becoming more problematic. Online users are becoming wise to the fact that they are paying for the privilege of being ‘over-surveyed’ (McDonald and Adam 2003). The result is that online users are intolerant of unsolicited communications and invitations to participate in research are increasingly considered ‘spamming’ (Harris 1997), resulting in online surveys often having lower response rates than onsite surveys. Witmer et al. (1999), for instance, report response rates of 10% or lower being common for online surveys.”

10% response rates seem good to me. More and more international projects are utlising on-line questionnaires. But questionnaire design and proper sampling seem to be a victim of the increasing ease of getting a questionnaire on line. I think we need a serious discussion about this. Maybe we should develop a European project on methods of research in distributed international project environments.

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