Just Published: Handbook of Web Surveys
Many of us in marketing research have been deploying web surveys for over ten years, and web surveys are, by far, the dominant mode of data collection in our industry nowadays. But our techniques and methods are an amalgam of practices adapted from other data collection modes, learned in part through trial and error, and taught to others through channels more akin to oral traditions. So it is helpful when our academic colleagues manage to document and codify the art and science of what we do.
A new Handbook of Web Surveys does just that. Among other things, it reminds us that whatever the survey mode—mail surveys, phone surveys, in-person surveys, mobile surveys, or online surveys—the key to rigorous research is bringing together theory, logic, mathematics, and practicality.
The biggest challenges for web surveys are that (1) not all people have Internet access, introducing the potential for coverage bias, and (2) most web surveys rely on volunteer respondents, introducing the possibility for self-selection bias and non-response bias.
There are ways of correcting for these biases, primarily through careful adjustment of the data through weighting. A highlight of this handbook is that it reviews the complex ways in which weighting can and should be done for web surveys, including the use of regression estimates, raking (also known as rim weighting) and propensity scores. Indeed, as one recent reviewer of the handbook noted:
The chapter on sampling and the later chapters on self-selection (chapter 9), weighting adjustment (chapter 10) and response propensities are central to statistical analysis of Web survey data, and the concepts treated in these chapters are at the core of debates on the scientific use of Web surveys. The authors should be complemented on the accessible way they introduce and describe these topics.
If you do any kind of survey work, you need to understand these issues. You need to understand them at a conceptual level, and you need guidelines on how to implement them at a practical level. This handbook will help. Versta Research can also help. We have expertise in complex quantitative methods, including the use web surveys for scientific and market research as well as for public opinion polling. Please feel free to give us a call.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.