Choosing the right software tool for implementing web surveys

Katja Lozar Manfreda, Andraž Petrovčič, University of Ljubljana

Researchers have different requirements regarding the features of a software tool they use for implementing web surveys. The needs of researchers differ regarding the frequency of web survey projects, the required number of respondents, length of the survey period, the complexity of the survey questionnaire, the way they sample and approach respondents, the availability of the technical infrastructure and support, and nevertheless the availability of the methodological knowledge. Respondents also use a variety of devices to complete web questionnaires; while personal computers are still predominant, mobile devices like smart phones and tablets are becoming increasingly common. The quality of presentation of web questionnaires on these devices also depends on the software used for survey implementation.

There are many software tools on the market that differently meet these demands and researchers are often in dilemma which one to choose. Ideally, the software tool would support the whole process of the web survey implementation (from sample management, recruitment, through questionnaire design, data collection and monitoring the survey process) at affordable costs. Usually, however, several compromises between ease of use, powerfulness and costs have to be made, further aggravating the difficulty of decision. Users also have to consider a range of additional factors like security, reliability, availability of technical resources, knowledge and potential requirements for additional services.

The aim of this workshop is to present and discuss this variety of factors to be taken into account when deciding for a specific software solution. We will systematically review features and characteristics of modern software tools for implementing web surveys, present differences in pricing and costs for different patterns of use and provide advice for choosing the right tool for various specific research needs. In addition, using one of the tools (i.e. 1ka.si, free of charge tool developed at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana) we will guide the participant through the process of preparing a web survey, focusing on different implementation procedures possible, giving also sound methodological advice on their usage.

About the instructors

Katja Lozar Manfreda is an assistant professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences University of Ljubljana. In addition to teaching courses in statistics, survey methodology and new technologies for social science research at all three university levels, her research work concentrates on the methodology of web surveys. She belongs to a research group that has been one of the first to study the Internet's potential as a survey tool (since 1996). She holds a master (1999) and a PhD thesis (2001) in this field (her PhD thesis in probably the first on this topic). She has been involved in the development of a global information portal on web survey methodology (WebSM.org) and together with V. Vehovar received the 2009 Warren J. Mitofsky Innovators Award from AAPOR (American Association of Public Opinion Research). Within the field of web survey methodology, K. Lozar Manfreda researched the problems of web survey questionnaire design, nonresponse, mode effect, measurement of ego-centric social networks, optimization of survey errors and survey costs, mixed-mode surveys, and comparisons of the data quality of web versus other survey modes. In recent years, K. Lozar Manfreda has also been involved in the development of a web software tool for implementing web surveys, 1ka, which is also a known and established product of the research group to which K. Lozar Manfreda belongs. Over 2,000 survey projects have been implemented in the last two years using this tool.

K. Lozar Manfreda has published 35 scientific papers and monograph chapters, some of high international importance. Her most cited work (Lozar Manfreda et al., 2008, over 60 citations in Web of Science) is a rare meta-analysis on the field of web survey methodology. At the moment she is is completing a book on web survey methodology forthcoming with Sage in 2014 (with co-authors Mario Callegaro and Vasja Vehovar). She has also organised several sections and presented several papers at the largest international scientific conferences from this field, especially conferences by AAPOR (American Association for Public Opinion Research), ESRA (European Survey Research Association), GOR (General Online Research), RC33 Logic and Methodology at ISA (International Sociological Association), and Internet Survey Workshops and MESS workshops.

Andraž Petrovčič is a lecturer and a research consultant at Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Ljubljana. He completed his studies in Social informatics (2005) and obtained his doctoral degree in Social Informatics (2011) from the University of Ljubljana. Among his research fields are the uses of ICTs for social support exchange and interpersonal communication in personal networks. An important part of his research activities on online communities is devoted to the methodological issues related to the deployment of web surveys in online communities with a special consideration on strategies for recruitment of participants. Since 2008 he collaborates as a consultant for interaction design and usability in the development of the software tool for web surveys 1KA.

He has co-authored scientific papers in international journals (e.g., Quality & Quantity, European Journal of Communication, Javnost - The Public) and book chapters with international publishers (e.g., Transaction Publishers, Peter Lang). As part of a COST 298 network action “Participation in Broadband Society” he co-edited a book »Interaction with Broadband Society« (Peter Lang, Berlin). He has also presented papers and co-organized sections at international scientific conferences in the internet research field such as GOR (General Online Research), Internet Survey Workshop (ISW) and RC33 Logic and Methodology at ISA (International Sociological Association)