Limitations of Questionnaires and Web Experiments

Web-based questionnaires and experiments are essential epidemiologic tools that offer vital information about public health and disease. They are a typical method to collect data that is typically less expensive and time-consuming than face to-face interviews, mailed paper questionnaires or automated telephone menu systems. However questionnaires and Web tests have some limitations that should be addressed to ensure that they are reliable and valid results.

A questionnaire may be influenced by response bias, the tendency of respondents to answer questions based on their personal opinions rather than according to research objectives. Additionally, questionnaire design can influence responses in a variety of ways. For example the wording of the question can affect whether respondents are able to comprehend and interpret the question in the same manner (reliable), measure what you’re looking for (valid) or are able to answer in a timely manner (credible).

Respondents might also experience survey fatigue or a lack of engagement with the questions asked and reduces the chance of them providing honest answers. A lack of incentives or compensation can make it difficult for respondents to fill out a questionnaire.

Online questionnaires also pose challenges for some experimental designs, like reaction-time or positioning studies. The variability in browser settings as well as screen sizes and operating systems makes it difficult to control and measure the same variables across different participants.

Additionally, surveys conducted on the Web are only accessible to people who are keyboard and Internet proficient, which isn’t a large portion of the population. It is also difficult for Web researchers to provide participants with a report after the experiment window has ended.


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