A Primer for Conducting Survey Research using MTurk: Tips for the Field

A Primer for Conducting Survey Research using MTurk: Tips for the Field

Silvana Chambers (University of Texas at Tyler, Tyler, TX, USA), Kim Nimon (University of Texas at Tyler, Tyler, TX, USA) and Paula Anthony-McMann (ETMC Regional Health Care System, Tyler, TX, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJAVET.2016040105
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This paper presents best practices for conducting survey research using Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk). Readers will learn the benefits, limitations, and trade-offs of using MTurk as compared to other recruitment services, including SurveyMonkey and Qualtrics. A synthesis of survey design guidelines along with a sample survey are presented to help researchers collect the best quality data. Techniques, including SPSS and R syntax, are provided that demonstrate how users can clean resulting data and identify valid responses for which workers could be paid.
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MTurk, short for Amazon Mechanical Turk, is a service offered by Amazon.com, Inc. It was originally designed for internal purposes in which participants would generate descriptors (e.g., “modern,” “vase,” “ivory”) for Amazon products, and in exchange, they received very small financial incentives (Landers & Behrend, 2015). Today, MTurk has evolved into a service that connects researchers (requestors) with respondents (workers) via Amazon’s online marketplace. MTurk recruits individuals for their marketplace by offering small researcher-paid financial incentives for HIT (Human Intelligence Tasks) completion (Buhrmester et al., 2011). MTurk gives researchers absolute discretion over the financial incentive their survey participants receive. Research on MTurk workers indicated that they are younger (millennials >50%), more educated (college degree >50%), and have lower income (Md = $20,000–29,999) (cf. Berinsky, Huber, & Lenz, 2012; Feitosa et al., 2015; Smith, Roster, Golden & Albaum, 2015) as compared to the average U.S. population. Therefore, MTurk workers may not be suitable for all studies.

Horton and Chilton (2010) reported that the hourly wage of the typical MTurk worker is $1.38. However, several studies (e.g., Casler, Bickel, & Hackett, 2013; Shapiro, Chandler, & Mueller, 2013) reported rates two to three times as high. MTurk adds a 40% commission to HIT’s total cost plus an additional 5% for Master workers, who are workers who have earned that qualification for consistently receiving positive feedback. Therefore, the cost per survey response for a 10-minute survey can range from $0.30 to $1.00.

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