The Online Survey Process

Web Survey Hosting - Online Surveys - Internet Surveys


How to Conduct an Online Survey

Our Online Survey Software (Features and Samples)

The process involved in conducting a online survey is similar to a mail questionnaire. However, there a few special considerations. This page discusses the basic process of conducting a online survey with special attention to the features that are different from mail surveys.

Clarify your research objectives
Decide on a sampling method
Questionnaire design
Invite the sample to participate in the Web survey
Host your Web survey on the Internet
Data collection and verification
Statistical analysis reports

If you are interested in trying a full-working version of StatPac's Online Survey Software, please click the link below.

Online Survey Software - Download Here

1. Clarify Your Research Objectives

All research begins by defining the goals of the study. What do you want to learn by conducting an online survey? Commit the goals to writing. Doing so will help to keep your survey focused. The number one reason for the failure of surveys is a lack of well-defined objectives. Poorly defined objectives yields excessively long surveys and ambiguous results. Clarify your research objectives to focus on the important information needed for decision making. The online survey itself should be designed to directly address the research goals. In other words, stay away from "fishing expeditions".

2. Decide on a Sampling Method

Proper sampling is essential for all research. If you select the wrong people, then the results will not reflect the true attitudes of the population. If you choose the right people, then the results will provide a solid foundation for decision making. The goal in sampling is to select people who represent the population.

Equally important is to get a high response rate, If the response rate it too low, we question the reliability of the data. Are the responders in some way different from the nonresponders? So it's extremely important to choose a sampling method that maximizes response rate.

Sending e-mail invitations seems to be the only method that produces high (but wildly varying) response rates (15%-80%). Of course, this requires that you have the e-mail addresses of the sample. We strongly advise you not to send "spam". While StatPac can be used to send bulk e-mail to any e-mail list, we suggest that you send e-mail only to people with whom you've had previous contact.

Publishing the URL to a web survey in written form (e.g., newsletters, newspapers, postcards, letters, etc.) will likely elicit a low response rate (<5%). Additionally, pop-up or pop-under windows also get poor response (typically 2%-4%).

One sampling method that appears to work on the Internet is called a snowball sample. In the e-mail invitation, you ask potential respondents to forward the e-mail invitation to other people who might also be interested in the topic. The potential for bias is high with a snowball sample, so we discourage the use of this method. However, it may be appropriate for some surveys, especially when the researcher has a severely limited e-mail list.

There are four things that most affect response rates: 1) the interest of the respondent in your research topic, 2) the quality of the invitation, 3) the use of an incentive, and 4) the number of questions asked.

3. Questionnaire Design

Internet surveys are more critical than paper and pencil surveys. Our research has shown that an  online survey must be shorter than traditional mail questionnaires. Respondents' willingness to participate and complete a questionnaire depends heavily on its length. Thus, when conducting a online survey, it becomes imperative to ask as few questions as necessary to get the information you need. If you need help designing your questionnaire, here's a free designing questionnaires tutorial.

4. Invite the Sample to Participate

In a typical online survey, potential respondents are sent an e-mail inviting them to participate by clicking on a link in the e-mail. While you can use any e-mail program to send the invitations, StatPac for Windows can customize each e-mail with a personal greeting or other information you want to be included. More importantly, it can serialize each e-mail with an ID number in order to track who responded and who didn't.

The e-mail invitation you send can be thought of as a "sales pitch". Sell the potential respondent on why they should complete your questionnaire. What benefit will they receive by completing the questionnaire? One way to provide a benefit is to offer an incentive. Potential incentives are drawings for prizes, donations to charities, a small tangible gift, cash, a copy of the results. Altruistic appeals are usually not effective.

5. Host Your Surveys on the Internet

You need access to a server to host your surveys on the Internet. Users of our software can host their surveys on their own Web site or our Web site (for free). StatPac for Windows software has selections to use our free server.

If you are using the free version, the link to your survey will be:   or   (SSL secure)

If you are using the registered version, you can create a private folder on our server so the link will be:   or   (SSL secure)

Note 1: Our server is Unix based so all links are case sensitive.
Note 2: SSL secure surveys must contain the www as part of the link.

All the server management tools are built into StatPac. You'll be able to upload surveys and download responses.

6. Data Verification and Collection

Internet surveys are different from paper and pencil questionnaires. Data checking and verification are performed immediately while the respondent is taking the survey. All the data is captured electronically and no manual data entry is involved.

There are two basic methods of capturing the data electronically. The first method is by e-mail. When a respondent completes a survey his or her answers are e-mailed to you and the data is captured from the e-mail. The e-mail is method is not frequently used. The second method is to store responses in a file on the server and then download all of them to your local computer at once. The file method is recommended because all the data is kept on the server and it uses fewer Internet resources. If you have more specific questions about the technical aspects of Internet surveys please see our frequently asked questions.

7. Statistical Analysis Reports

The whole idea behind doing surveys is to get decision making information... which means clear and comprehensive reports. Look for software that creates reports as MS Word documents so you can easily customize the output.

Typical reports include "top-line" frequencies with graphics, and crosstab and banner tables that show your key variables broken down by the demographics of the sample. Banner tables give the information you need to identify opportunities and to make knowledgeable decisions based on the data.


StatPac Inc.
8609 Lyndale Ave. S. #209A
Bloomington, MN 55420

Phone: (715) 442-2261
Fax: (715) 442-2262
Send us e-mail

Copyright (c) 1997-2007 StatPac Inc.