An ideal survey manages to control for error by ensuring that each member of a population has an equal chance of being included in the sample, that sample members are randomly selected in large enough numbers to assure representability, and that everyone who is included in the sample responds. Surveys, whether distributed by postal mail, telephone, or Internet, seldom achieve these ideal conditions. Similar to postal mail surveys prior to the 1970s, most e-mail and Web-based surveys have not had response rates consistently high enough to be generalizable to any population. In addition, nonrandom sampling, technological problems with delivery, inconsistencies with the medium of delivery, security issues, problems with Internet junk mail, and other factors converge to make Web-based surveys a problematic delivery method even for select populations that use the Internet in their everyday lives.

Internet surveys have the potential to become a practical and valuable resource for social scientists. For select populations who are connected and technologically savvy, the cost, ease, speed of delivery and response, ease of data cleaning and analysis all weigh in favor of the Internet as a delivery method for survey research. the design flexibility, geographic reach, anonymity, and minimized interviewer error of Internet surveys are superior to telephone and mail delivery methods. However, current low response rates, lack of generalizability, and questions of validity and reliability all diminish the utility of Internet surveys for the general population today. Additionally, because there continue to exist many technical problems such as multiple computer platforms, browsers, and e-mail readers, and poorly written software—not to mention the potential for a server to crash and destroy any data already accumulated—Internet surveys are still a few years away from becoming a common means of survey research. In the interim, Internet surveys can be very useful for studying special “technologically savvy” populations and can act as a supplemental means to traditional survey research. However, using a multimodal approach for delivery is recommended. This approach would include traditional mail pre-notification followed by several waves of e-mail solicitation and, if possible, telephone follow-up.

In this section…

In this section you will read Chapter 9 of Babbie where you will learn about the general process and procedures for conducting survey research. You will also read Chapter 14, in which you learn to analyze quantitative data. Since you will begin designing a web-based survey at this point, I also recommend reading the following articles:

  • Sills, S. and Song, C. 2002. “Innovations in Survey Research: An Application of Web‐Based Surveys” Social Science Computer Review. 20 (1):22‐30. available at
  • Schonlau, Matthias.; Fricker, Ronald D.; Elliott, Marc N. 2002. “Ch 5 Guidelines For Designing And Implementing Internet Surveys.” Conducting Research Surveys Via E-mail and the Web. Santa Monica, Ca: Rand.

You will also need to go to and log into your Qualtrics account. We will be using this program for constructing a websurvey. If you are new to this program, you might want to visit and watch the following tutorial videos.

Qualtrics Tutorial Videos

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