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If somebody argued that e-research is quite common practice in social and educational research, I probably would agree. Well, at least one method – online surveys – is quite common in current social research practices.

If somebody argued that social e-research is not supported and social e-research methods are not thought at universities, I probably would agree too. Well, at least I know two research-intensive universities that currently do not have a standard platform for doing online surveys for academic research (Ref1). Have you ever heard that online research methods would be covered in university research method courses?

Nevertheless, I was quite successful finding two good academic websites with self-learning materials, references and other resources dedicated to online survey method.

  • Exploring Online Research Methods Incorporating TRI-ORM: URL

  • WebSM – Web Survey Methodology: URL

More resources and links for those who want to do online survey are in the blog.

Academic resources about online survey methodods and techniques

Exploring Online Research Methods Incorporating TRI-ORM: URL

An ESRC-funded online training package designed to support researchers using online research methods: online surveys, virtual synchronous and asynchronous interviews. The website provides: (a) a self-learning online resource that covers both the theoretical and practical aspects of online research; (b) access to a range of case studies and resource links; (c) discussion of the ethical issues of online research. Hosted by The University of Leicester. Recommended for beginners as a good self-learning resource. Particularly recommended the following self-learning guides that cover core methodological, design and implementation questions, such as sampling, recruiting, response rates, piloting procedures, etc: (a) Online questionnaires: URL; (b) Online interviews: URL.

WebSM – Web Survey Methodology: URL

The website is dedicated to the methodological issues of web surveys and also covers other issues related to the use and impact of technologies on survey data collection. Target groups - students, professionals, users from academic, public and business sector. Website includes: a very detail and up to date bibliography (more than 300 records), detail list with short descriptions and links of open source and commercial internet survey software tools (about 300-400 titles), links to other websites on similar topic, some useful guides (e.g., sampling, how to choose right software). An academic website maintained by the Faculty of Social Sciences at University of Ljubljana, Slovenia (also supported by EU FP5). Recommended for beginners and advanced academic users of online surveys.

Questionnaire Design and Surveys Sampling: URL

The contents of this site are aimed at students who need to perform basic statistical analyses on data from sample surveys, especially those in marketing science. This JavaScript tool computes the needed sample size (N) based on available information from a pilot sample, to achieve an acceptable accuracy and/or risk. Sample size determination JavaScript: URL

PS: This site is a part of the JavaScript E-labs learning objects for decision making: URL. A great website of statistical simulations. Other JavaScript in this series are categorised under different areas of applications (see the “Menu” on this page). Main link to this resource: URL.

Open source online survey software

CHSM Survey Builder: URL

Provides and maintains an Internet web site and related tools to assist historians, scholars, and non-profit researchers (including a tool for online surveys). Survey services (including hosting on a web server) are free of charge for academic users. See full terms and conditions: URL. Maintained by the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University ("ECHO" project).

ASSET: URL

Offers quite powerful and intuitive, system for the design and administration of online surveys. Allows to create and administer online surveys, summarize responses online and/or download the data for analysis with SPSS or Microsoft Excel. The ASSET survey tool cam be used on ASSET server (free to academic community - .edu domain). The software is available for download as freeware under an open-source license (i.e. could be installed on an institutional server). Developed by Dr. Bert Wachsmuth, Seton Hall University. Demo/test version is available on the website.

LimeSurvey: URL

Basically contains all main features for doing online surveys. Currently offers such features as: unlimited number of surveys at the same time; unlimited numbers of questions in a survey; unlimited number of participants; multi-lingual surveys; 20 different question types; branching; user-management; anonymous and not-anonymous survey; import and export functions to text, CSV and MS Excel format; basic statistical and graphical analysis, etc. No hosting services (i.e., needs to be installed on a local web server).

See also: (a) List of core features (URL); (b) Online demo version (URL).

Commercial online survey tools and services

Zoomerang: URL

Zoomerang zPro Surveys provide online survey software with pre-built templates, customization, analysis, etc. Essentially contains all main functionalities that are typically needed for social online surveys. Zoomerang is quite often used in educational surveys (offers software for a special price for educational institutions). The software mainly caters to the needs of DIY researchers, but for additional fee Zoomerang survey services provide assistance with design, programming and deployment of online surveys.

See also: (a) Product features, comparison, pricing, demo, etc. (URL). Demo or small surveys for a limited time are available for free. (b) Zoomerang Education Survey Resource Centre (URL); (c) Website with Zoomerang users’ forums (URL). It might be useful if help, ideas or tips related to the use of Zoomerang are needed.

SurveyMonkey: URL

An online survey tool that is freely available for basic surveys and subscription-based for more enhanced features. Allows to take it to your web server, or just provide the link to Monkey server. Other features include: basic analysis of results; survey takers can go back and edit their responses, etc. It is usually used and recommended for not very complicated surveys. Mainly caters to the needs of DIY researchers.

See also: (a) Main features (URL); (b) Pricing (URL). Small surveys/demo are available for free.

SurveyMethods: URL

Web survey creation analysis and deployment tool and hosting services. Software offers all core and some advanced functions, such as: to create, launch and send email invitations, spell check, automatic reminder messages, copy and modify surveys from the library, more advanced reporting/analysis options along with graphical charting and segmentation. Generally feature rich and reasonably priced software. Mainly caters to the needs of DIY researchers.

See also: (a) Main features and comparison of different options and prices (URL). Basic option/demo is available for free; (b) Special free or discounted options for academic/non-profit organisations (URL).

InstantSurvey: URL

InstantSurvey (Global Market Insite, Inc.) is focused on providing online research solutions to those interested in managing the research process themselves. There are two options: Basic and Pro. Basic is a core option for survey creation, distribution, analysis and management. Pro is an advanced option for building and managing more sophisticated respondent lists, enabling multiple users, and using advanced analysis tools for presentation and reporting. Allows to create survey quickly and to start survey almost instantaneously. Features include: question branching, multilingual support, management of distribution lists and respondents, etc. Mainly caters to the specific needs of DIY researchers, but survey programming/design services are available for additional fee.

See also: (a) Main features and comparison of different options (URL); (b) Pricing (URL). Available 30 days free trial (InstantSurvey Basic) and a special option for non-profit organisations.

Vovici's EFM Feedback: URL

Vovici's EFM Feedback is a survey solution for creating, conducting and analysing online surveys in a secure, hosted environment. Includes many useful features for development, survey management, analysis: survey wizard or import text directly from Microsoft Word; surveys templates; saving of new questions to built-in survey libraries for future re-use; passing data into surveys without requiring respondents to re-enter already known information; multilingual support; emailing personalised invitations and reminders; analysing directly or exporting data, etc. Offers survey creation services. Commercial, better supported, but more pricy solution.

See also: (a) Main features (URL); (b) Comparison of different options (URL); (c) Pricing (URL). Available 30 days free trial.

ISurveys: URL

An Australian online survey company. Provides software and services. A local, but more expensive option.

Selecting an online survey tool

Online Surveys Tools Option: URL

The University’s of Texas comparison and recommendation of online survey tools. Includes two commercial products: SurveyMonkey and SurveyGold. This resource is a part of Instructional Assessment Resources on the University’s website, which includes other valuable resources.

See also: (a) Tips on students’ assessment, teaching assessment, instructional technology and program assessment (URL); (b) A good (web-based) bibliography on educational research techniques (URL).

Selecting Online Survey Tools: URL

The University’s of Melbourne web page with some ideas about the main categories of online survey tools and how to choose the right tool for your particular needs.

Comparing Online Survey Software Solutions: URL

A concise comparison of different web based commercial survey software tools. Recommends and includes more detail descriptions of SurveyMethods, Zoomerang, SurveyMonkey, VoVici WebSurveyor, QuestionPro. A private webpage.

NOTE: The information on this page is based on information and recommendations gathered from various, mainly academic, websites (as at 3 Sep 2007). It is not exhaustive and, of course, subjective. If your experience differs or you know other good resources/tools, please leave a comment.

Comments

I'm interested in hearing from others if they can suggest a good checklist that researchers new to online surveys can ask as they try to decide what is the best system ensuring security of data (what country is the data housed), how is it protected from hacking, "sniffing" etc.
Many thanks,
Karen Szala-Meneok

For downloadabale questionnaires you might want to check out the Survey Questionniare Archive at: http://www.cadsr.udel.edu/sqa

The Survey Questionnaire Archive is an open collection of survey questionnaires used in social sciences and public policy making.

The archive is created, hosted and maintained by the Center for Applied Demography & Survey Research at the University of Delaware.

This digital collection allows users to browse, search, store and share survey instruments over the web.

The goal of the archive is to collect, capture, disseminate and preserve a wide variety of survey instruments.

Thanks for an excellent review of the topic - it was very helpful.

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