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Conducting Online Surveys

Conducting Online Surveys

Second Edition

November 2011 | 264 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

Conducting Online Surveys

This book is a complete guide to conducting survey research using digital modalities. Many topics discussed, such as developing online and mobile questionnaires, are unique to digital surveys, whereas others, such as creating reliable survey questions, are common to all survey environments. The expansion of low-cost software options has opened up this area to a broad range of researchers, and the need for a comprehensive text for developing, implementing, and reporting digital surveys is greater than ever. This Second Edition reflects the significant developments in technology and the methodological literature since the publication of the First Edition. It captures in one single volume everything you need to know about conducting digital surveys from start to finish.

"This is the most clearly written and practical text out there. It is a practical guide for students or anyone interested in online surveys." Margaret S. Kelley, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. Planning the Digital Survey
Chapter 3. Sampling
Chapter 4. Writing Survey Questions
Chapter 5. Designing and Developing the Survey Instrument
Chapter 6. Conducting the Survey
Chapter 7. Processing and Analyzing the Survey Data
Chapter 8. Reporting the Survey Results
Chapter 9. Concluding Comments
Appendix A: American Association for Public Opinion Research, Code of Ethics
Appendix B: Commonly Used Survey Questions

A very clear book with very good advice. Especially useful for undergraduate students and any health care professional new to conducting online surveys.

Dr Josette Bettany-Saltikov
School of Health and Social Care Parkside, University of Teesside
August 8, 2012

Practical resource for students!

Cheryl Poth
Educational Psychology , Univ of Alberta
June 28, 2012

Increasingly students are carrying out online surveys - will be useful.

(Student numbers unknown - core unit for Year 2 students c.40 & MSc (unknown till registration - this year 50)

Ms Emma Duke-Williams
School of Computing, Portsmouth University
June 19, 2012
Key features

New to the Second Edition

  • Outlines the three common options for digital surveys—e-mail surveys, website surveys, and mobile surveys—thoroughly updating the content of Chapter 2 on Planning the Online Survey
  • Expands discussion of choosing software, including a focus on data security and coverage of anti-spam compliance
  • Extends discussion of many topics such as closed-ended survey questions, survey scales, questionnaire matrices, and best practices for reporting results
  • Includes end-of-chapter exercises, which help students apply the chapter content and can be used for classroom discussion


In the five years since the publication of the first edition of Conducting Online Surveys, the field of online survey research has changed significantly. A multitude of low-cost software options has opened the area to a broad range of researchers and the need of a comprehensive text aimed at guiding the development, implementation, and reporting of digital surveys is greater than ever. To keep pace with the development of technology and the methodological literature surrounding survey research, we have made significant additions and changes to this second edition.

First, readers will notice a slight change in the language we use to describe the surveys under consideration. In the previous edition of this text we used the term "online surveys" to discuss electronic surveys delivered to potential respondents by e-mail or on a website. We continue to use the term "online" in this edition, but also use the synonyms, "electronic" and "digital" to be inclusive of surveys delivered to mobile phones, tablet computers such as iPads, and public kiosks.

The foundational material in chapter 1 is largely unchanged. We retained our discussion of the common characteristics shared by all survey projects and explanation of the steps involved in creating a survey.

We updated chapter 2 substantially. The selection of digital surveys from which to choose now centers on three options: e-mail surveys, website surveys, and mobile surveys. In the first edition, we discussed sending questionnaires in the body of an e-mail message or as an e-mail attachment. That option is obviously still available; however, the advent of free and easy-to-use survey software has rendered it an unappealing choice for most purposes. We have, therefore, eliminated that material and now refer to e-mail surveys as those that are accessed from a link in an e-mail invitation.

A successful digital survey project is highly dependent on choosing suitable software; we have therefore, expanded our discussion of factors one should consider when purchasing software and signing up for a Web survey host. Information about data security and a list of security-related questions to ask when evaluating software vendors will be especially useful for researchers who wish to collect sensitive or confidential data from respondents. Additionally, market researchers will appreciate the new material concerning anti-spam compliance at the end of chapter 2.

Chapter 3 remains focused on sampling techniques for online surveys. We have increased our coverage of pre-recruited panels with expanded information about the benefits and limitations of building online panels.

In chapter 4 you will find expanded treatment of closed-ended survey questions. We have added greater depth to the discussion of survey scales, covering topics like: number of points to include on scales, the positioning of scale labels and more. To assist beginning researchers, we have also included a list of commonly used survey scales. We retained the section on demographic questions and added a library (Appendix B) of frequently used survey questions that includes demographic and other items.

The examples throughout chapter 5 have been refreshed and we have updated and expanded the discussion of questionnaire matrices. Our goal was to provide ample illustrations of how digital survey questions may be presented so that survey creators can make informed decisions when designing their questionnaires.

Chapter 6 has been overhauled. Coverage of survey deployment methods was enhanced by including information about the use of mobile phones and social media websites. Readers will also find greater detail surrounding best practices for writing e-mail invitations, a new discussion of message deliverability, and more on techniques to increase survey response rate.

Information pertaining to manual tracking and coding of e-mail survey responses has been eliminated from Chapter 7. In its place we have inserted the review of basic summary statistics, formerly contained in an appendix. This material is intended to aid researchers who are in need of a brief refresher as they are review survey reports produced by digital survey hosts.

Chapter 8 contains detailed information about survey data reporting. In addition to the description of academic research reports you will find new material about dashboard reports and expanded coverage of best practices for creating PowerPoint side shows and delivering presentations in-person and in virtual settings.

Finally, instructors using this text will notice the addition of class exercises accompanying each chapter. We hope that the expanded and updated information included in this edition has improved the text and that online survey researchers will find it to be a useful resource.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Planning the Online Survey

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