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Bristol Online Surveys - an under-utilised resource?
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Bristol Online Surveys - an under-utilised resource?


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Nick Lewis, Researcher at the CCRI, discusses the use of Bristol Online Surveys as a research tool, including some of the pro's and con's of this type of methodology.

Nick Lewis, Researcher at the CCRI, discusses the use of Bristol Online Surveys as a research tool, including some of the pro's and con's of this type of methodology.

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  • I will be talking about something that we have only recently been using in CCRI in the last year or so – and this presentation is aimed as much at CCRI staff, as the students here.
  • Many of you have probably already used these?
  • Within the UnifoGlos there is one person responsible for account creation etc – so you just need to have an account created.
  • Online is becoming more commonly used, due to the ease with which it can be done.BUT the surveys still need to be designed properly – and we have all seen poorly designed online and paper surveys – but at least with postal – people scribble outside of the boxThe Dillman book – is widely regarded as the oracle for survey design, although dated in some ways (online etc) still relevant.
  • AdvantagesAbility to reach a large and dispersed populationEasy within an organisationData is automatically enteredTime and cost savingsMore convenient for respondent (can return to survey)Ability to present more complex information (visual/audio media)Easy to track responses, if desiredEasy to select follow-up non-respondentsRange of questions – open/single/multiple responses – ability to ‘guide’ respondent with root questions (If yes/if no – go to Q.x)Require answer completion – if desiredPromotion via social media
  • DisadvantagesDifferences in response rates within population groups – age/gender etc Ensuring representative sampleNecessitates access and familiarity with ITPotential compatibility issues with analysis softwareIssues related to email addresses – people often use more than oneSpam filters/considered ‘junk’ emailPrivacy issues/anonymityImpersonalRequires very clear answer instructionsRespondent frustration (mandatory questions
  • We/CCRI were unaware of the Bristol online survey until a colleague mentioned it in passing, and we were already conducting a survey online, that had adverts etc in it, as it was one of the paid services – and simply didn’t look professional! I was astounded that it wasn’t more widely known within the Uni.It is used by around 130 universties and other public sector bodies. A number of high profile surveys use the service, and I think it adds ‘authority’ to the work you are doing – it simply looks ‘better’ if you are giving out an ac.ukweblink rather than a link.
  • So we will now go through a very short survey that highlights the main questions that you can present on the BoS platform.
  • This is the main interface page where you control/create your surveys.Open/Closed/Building – all self explainatory (can re-open a survey once closed)Edit/Preview/Options I will go through some of the features that you can are available on the construction side
  • BOS has all the normal features of a typical online survey facility. You can personalise things to an extent through the options menu.Dates you make the survey available to and from can be easily amended, and once a survey has closed, it can easily be opened up again if that should be required.
  • However, one of the best features, and this again is very likely similar to online applications is the ability to restrict those who complete the survey. Each respondent is issued with a unique log in code and password – these can easily be mass emailed to people using Word/Outlook and the mail merge facility.This feature can also enable you to complete numerous surveys by one individual – by creation of many unique log in codes and passwords…and then using each code for each interview. Useful for conducting mass telephone interviews – although there are some drawbacks and limitations….will come to that shortlyYou are also able to track who has and who has not responded – although this does have implications for confidentiality, and they do advise you to inform respondents if this is to occur.
  • This is the pre-launch check list – really don’t want to have to do this unless you are 100% certain it is ready to go. Any retrosepctive changes due to typos and such like cause a real pain in the……which is easily done.
  • Results – these can be obtained and downloaded at any time, which you may want to do to analyse results etc. There are options to conduct basic statistical analysis within the program, such as frequencies and also cross-tabs. However, for much beyond that you may want to use something such as SPSS. The BOS does provide you with a key document – detailing what numbers relate to which options within any question – so this does help with a certain amount of efficiency savings when coding in SPSS.
  • One other option that you can utilise the BOS for, as we have done recently – although it does have its limitations on this front, is using it for conducting large scale telephone interviews. Previously we have used custom made databases – and while they still have their place – the creation of these can be very labour intensive. This was achieved by creating a large number of ‘users’ – and each interview was conducted using a separate user name. This gets around the problem of having an open questionnaire issue where it will only allow one user/computer to access the survey. As I understand it the software is in the process of being updated – when that will occur I don’t know. I became aware of this after a couple of email enquiries I made, and as a result I made a couple of suggestions related to limitations at present:Unable to export a pdf/word copy of the survey, the only way to do this is copy/paste – which is a little laboriousMore complex means to direct users to follow up questions – ‘go to’ options within the design section of it. We had a large number of ‘if yes/if no’ type questions and based on the current range of features we were unable to fully guide respondents
  • Transcript

    • 1. Bristol Online SurveysAn under utilised resource? Nick Lewis
    • 2. A quick poll…• Who is aware of ‘Bristol Online Survey’?
    • 3. So, what is it?• An online survey facility – just like many others…•…so nothing new there then…?
    • 4. Full University Licence• Full access to all available features – Just need to register & have an account created• Many online providers only offer basic services UNLESS you pay• BOS – Free!
    • 5. Increasing use of Online• Many reasons for this, however… – Survey still needs to be appropriately designed & structured – No room for ambiguity • Postal – people can write on survey – Dillman (2000) ‘Total Design Method’
    • 6. Advantages of Online• Time and cost savings• Ability to reach a large and dispersed population• Ability to present more complex information (visual/audio media)• Data is automatically entered• Range of questions – open/single/multiple responses – ability to ‘guide’ respondent with root questions (If yes/if no – go to Q.x)• Easy to track responses, if desired• Promotion via social media
    • 7. Disadvantages• Differences in response rates within population groups – age/gender etc• Ensuring representative sample• Potential compatibility issues with analysis software• Issues related to email addresses – people often use more than one• Impersonal• Respondent frustration (mandatory questions)
    • 8. Bristol Online Surveys• We/CCRI were unaware• Used by 130+ Universities, public sector bodies & national surveys• Authoritative?• Lack of awareness within the University?•
    • 9. A sample questionnaire•
    • 10. BOS Features
    • 11. ReferencesDilman (2000) Mail and Internet Surveys – The Tailored Design MethodS Lefever; Dal, M; Matthíasdóttir A, (2006) Online data collection inacademic research: advantages and limitations, British Journal ofEducational Technology Volume 38, Issue 4, pages 574–582Joel R. Evans, Anil Mathur, (2005),The value of online surveys, InternetResearch, Vol. 15 Iss: 2 pp.195 – 219Wright, K (2006) Researching Internet-Based Populations: Advantages andDisadvantages of Online Survey Research, Online Questionnaire AuthoringSoftware Packages, and Web Survey Services Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication Volume 10, Issue 3, April 2005