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A comparison of Internet and mail survey methodologies
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Tags: Mail Surveys Quantitative Research Consumer Research Consultation Online Research
Article ID: 20010703 Published: July 2001 Authors: Bobby Medlin and Dwayne Whitten
Survey instruments are the primary means of data collection for organization researchers. Advances in technology make the Internet an appealing tool for survey research. This article examines Internet surveys, comparing the research tool to the older tools of fax surveys and mail surveys. Editor¶s note: Ken Green is an assistant professor at Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Ark. Bobby Medlin is associate professor at University of Arkansas at Monticello. Dwayne Whitten is an assistant professor at Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia. Survey instruments serve as the primary means of data collection for organization researchers. Data collection using survey instruments is both costly and time consuming. The phenomena under observation by organization researchers change rapidly, making it desirable to shorten the research publication process. Dickson and Maclachlan (1996) compared the productivity of fax and mail survey methodologies. They found that data collected using the fax survey method was consistent with that collected using the more traditional mail survey method and that fax responses were received more quickly and in greater numbers. The purpose of this study is to identify and investigate the use of a third alternative: Internet surveys. Internet and mail survey methodologies are compared on the basis of data consistency, speed of response, response rate and cost. Advantages and disadvantages of the Internet and mail alternatives are identified and discussed.
making it possible to collect data using an Internet survey methodology. While personal contact. as personal contact. The e-mail message sent to deans in the Internet . The comparisons are necessary to identify the efficacy of the Internet survey methodology. MANOVA was used to ascertain data consistency. and e-mail messages sent the following Tuesday morning in an attempt to approximately match receipt times. time can be saved. Internet surveying. This newer methodology remains untested. Paper questionnaires were mailed on a Friday afternoon. and the application of follow-up measures increase. 2) Internet survey methodology will yield a significantly higher response rate than mail surveys. response times.6 percent. Investigation of the efficacy of Internet surveying is necessary to determine if. The study provides researchers with information to assist in the selection of a survey -based data collection methodology. Literature review Yu and Cooper (1983) conducted a comprehensive literature review of techniques used to increase response rates to questionnaires. Technology supporting the Internet has advanced rapidly. and follow-up increase response rates. The use of an Internet surveying methodology offers possibilities for improvement in all three areas. Their review included 389 mail surveys with a weighted average response rate of 47. Dickson and Maclachlan (1996) sought to compare fax and mail survey methodologies. In general. 3) Internet survey methodology will yield a significantly faster response time than the mail methodology. Response rates and times and costs were assessed and compared.3 percent and a standard deviation of 19. This survey provides information relating to a third methodology. response rates increase. they found that. and 3) reduce the cost of data collection. The sample frame was systematically divided into two groups. Deans of schools in the second group were e-mailed a request to respond to the questionnaire at a specified Internet address. in fact. They found that the data collected was consistent across methods and that fax methodology yielded improvements in response rate and response time. The peer evaluation data will be analyzed in a following study. The paper questionnaire was headed by an appeal to respond and each was accompanied by a self addressed stamped return envelope. and costs associated with the two methodologies. they also increase costs. This study compares mail and Internet survey methodologies.Researchers using survey instruments to collect data seek to 1) improve response rates. The questionnaire used in this study was constructed for the purpose of collecting data related to the use of peer evaluations as part of the business faculty evaluation process. The sample frame was systematically divided into two groups. The questionnaire was administered to one group using a traditional mail survey methodology. and 4) Internet survey methodology will cost significantly less than the mail methodology. It is hypothesized that 1) data quality will be consistent across methods. incentive. Dickson and Maclachlan¶s (1996) results support the use of a fax survey methodology as a viable alternative to mail surveying. the second group was asked to respond electronically through the Internet. Dickson and Maclachlan (1996) contend that surveying by fax is less costly than mail surveying but they offer no specific analysis to support their contention. and costs can be reduced. Deans of business schools in the first group were mailed a peer review questionnaire. 2) shorten the time required for data collection. A sample frame of approximately 350 Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business-accredited business schools was identified using the AACSB 98/99 Membership Directory. response rates can be improved. Methodology A questionnaire was developed for the purpose of collecting data related to the use of peer evaluations by AACSB-accredited schools of business. The objectives of this study are to compare the data consistency between Internet and mail survey methodologies and to compare response rates. The general purpose of this study is to provide an empirical evaluation of the use of Internet surveying methodology compared to a mail-based methodology. the use of incentives.
the rate for mail surveys was 30. Hotelling-Lawley Trace. and Roy¶s Greatest Root tests all returned probabilities greater than F of . Figures 1 and 2 illustrate the return patterns for the alternate survey methodologies.45 days. the rate for mail respondents was 11. a three -page questionnaire.85 days. and a selfaddressed and stamped return envelope. Support for Hypothesis 3 (faster response time for the Internet methodology) was found. This comparison of data sets used only data from questionnaires with yes responses to Question 1. Fifty-eight percent of the Internet respondents and 49 percent of the mail respondents answered yes to Question 1. Support for Hypothesis 2 (higher response rate for Internet methodology) was not found. Wilk¶s Lambda.54 percent. Question 1 on the questionnaires asked whether peer evaluations where included as part of faculty evaluations. The average response time for Internet respondents was 2. The response rate for Internet surveys was 24. Results Some support for Hypothesis 1 (data quality will be consistent) was found. None of these costs were incurred during the .5117. The SAS MANOVA procedure was used to compare data from the mail survey to data from the Internet survey. indicating no significant difference between the mail and Internet data. While both response rates are reasonable.survey group included an appeal to respond to the electronic questionnaire posted at a specified Internet address.11 percent. the Internet methodology did not surpass the mail methodology. Each mail-out required a stamped and addressed envelope. Pillai¶s Trace. Support for Hypothesis 4 (lower cost for Internet methodology) was found.
both rates were above 20 percent. J. A Quantitative Review of Research Design Effects on Response Rates to Questionnaires. . & Cooper. (1996). While the mail response rate exceeded the Internet rate. References Armstrong. Estimating Nonresponse Bias in Mail Surveys. Dickson. H. (1977). L. Conclusions Results indicate that the Internet survey methodology may be a viable alternative to the more traditional mail survey methodology. Fax Surveys: Return Patterns and Comparison With Mail Surveys. J. 33. and the Internet process was overall significantly less costly. Journal of Marketing Research. T. (1996).electronic surveying process. Strategy under Complexity: Fostering Generative Relationships. The average response time was significantly shorter for Internet respondents. 215 -231. D. (1983). Journal of Marketing Research. R. & Maclachlan. 20. The Internet methodology should be revised in an attempt to garner higher response rates. & Maxfield. Yu. 108-113. 36-44. S. Certainly. Data collected was found to be consistent across the two methods. 396-402. J. D. Long Range Planning. 14. P. S. & Overton. 29. Replication of this study is necessary. Preparation costs for the two methods was considered to be approximately equal. additional investigation into the efficacy of an Internet survey methodology is warranted. Lane. Journal of Marketing Research.
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