Guide to the design and application of online questionnaire surveys

Nepal J Epidemiol. 2016 Dec 31;6(4):640-644. doi: 10.3126/nje.v6i4.17258. eCollection 2016 Dec.


Collecting research data through traditional approaches (face-to-face, postal or telephone survey) can be costly and time consuming. The emerging data collection approach based on internet/e-based technologies (e.g. online platforms and email), is a relatively cost effective survey alternative. These novel data collection strategies can collect large amounts of data from participants in a short time frame. Similarly, they also seem to be feasible and effective in collecting data on sensitive issues or with samples they are generally hard to reach, for example, men who have sex with men (MSM) or migrants. As a significant proportion of the population currently in the world are digitally connected, the shift from postal (paper-pencil) or telephone towards online survey use in research is in the interests of researchers in academia as well as in the commercial world. However, compared to designing and executing paper version of the questionnaire, there is limited literature to help a starting researcher with the design and a use of online questionnaires. This short paper highlights issues around: a) methodological aspect of online questionnaire survey; b) online survey planning and management; and c) ethical concerns that may arise while using this option. We believe that this paper will be useful for researchers who want to gain knowledge or apply this approach in their research.

Keywords: Internet survey; Online surveys; Questionnaire design; Research ethics; Research methods; Web based survey.