In the last few years, Web-based surveys have received increased attention given their potential to cut the costs and time associated with paper-based surveys. In this exploratory study, we consider the feasibility of using the Web as a data collection medium in China, which has a current Internet population of 103 million. Following a review of the literature regarding the design, implementation, and application of Web surveys, and the current state of data collection in developing countries in general and China in particular, we describe how we developed a Web-based survey instrument focusing on the ethical values of IT professionals. We e-mailed 5,000 IT professionals in China, inviting them to participate in the survey. Thirty-seven percent of those contacted visited the Web site and 5.8% submitted the survey. The survey data, both qualitative and quantitative, is analysed and discussed with a view to drawing up instructive guidance for researchers interested to use the Web as a data collection tool in China, as well as developing countries more generally. The Web-based survey has great potential in these contexts, if sensitively designed and implemented. We consider the implications of this research and identify areas where future research is necessary.
In order to review the literature on Web-based surveys in a systematic fashion, we followed the following protocol. Firstly, we reviewed the literature on Web-based surveys in general (i.e., without any restriction to China or other developing countries), in order to identify current practices as well as the broadly recognised advantages and disadvantages of this adaptation of the paper-based survey method. Secondly, we looked at current data collection methods in developing countries: we considered paper-, e-mail- and Web-based surveys. These two areas of literature were not restricted to the information systems or information management domains. Next, we focused our literature search on the specific case of data collection in China, and the use of Web-surveys in that context. At this stage of the search process, while we searched the English language databases, we also looked at Chinese language databases, which cover publications in Chinese that are published inside China. Finally, we summarise the relevant literature findings in a short section.