Best Practice in Online Survey Research with Sensitive Topics

Best Practice in Online Survey Research with Sensitive Topics

Kristina M. Kays (George Fox University, USA), Tashina L. Keith (George Fox University, USA) and Michael T. Broughal (George Fox University, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3918-8.ch009
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This chapter addresses the main considerations in online survey research with sensitive topics. Advances in technology have allowed numerous options in addressing survey design, and thus created a need to evaluate and consider best approaches when using online survey research. This chapter identifies subjects such as item non-response in online survey research. In addition, this chapter includes a description of the differences in researching non-sensitive topics versus sensitive topics, and then lists a number of best practice strategies to reduce item non-response and improve the quality of survey data obtained. Included are specific considerations for defining sensitive topics and addressing gender differences when surveying more sensitive material. Additional resources in online survey research design are recommended.
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Many fields (e.g., business, health, social science, etc.) have found it beneficial to use electronic surveys as opposed to pencil-and-paper or interview surveys. The primary benefits of using electronic surveys are the saving of both time and money and the promotion of more honest responding (Heiervang & Goodman, 2011; Sax, Gilmartin, & Bryant, 2003). Time benefits are found in both (1) the speedier administration and return of surveys, and (2) the ease of data use (Nulty, 2008).Furthermore, with the data already in electronic form, there is a decrease in data input errors (Heiervang & Goodman, 2011).


Best Practices From The Literature

Increasing Disclosure Rates on Surveys

Research indicates more honest responses are elicited by electronic surveys. Given the anonymity that electronic surveys afford, survey participants generally report feeling less vulnerable and more comfortable disclosing personal information on electronic surveys (Joinson, Paine, Buchanan, & Reips, 2008). This has been vital information for those fields exploring sensitive subject matter. With the higher rates of perceived anonymity produced by electronic survey format, participants are likely to report more honest and less socially desirable answers, thereby producing higher rates of truthfulness in the data results (Heiervang & Goodman, 2011).

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