The Ethics of Conducting E-Mail Surveys

The Ethics of Conducting E-Mail Surveys

Sandeep Krishnamurthy (University of Washington, Bothell, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-937-3.ch268
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E-mail is a low-cost and highly effective form of individual contact for primary research. However, researchers who contact strangers for their survey research through e-mail are, in essence, sending them Spam. Some academic researchers might argue that due to the low volume and infrequent nature of their surveys and the general positive perception of academia, their e-mail surveys do not add to the Spam problem. However, this is an insufficient resolution of the ethical problem. This chapter examines one solution to avoid this problem—the use of respondent permission prior to contact. Obtaining respondent permission is tricky and can be costly. But, it may be the only long-term solution. Importantly, using this approach could lead to a loss of randomness in the sampling procedure due to self-selection. Ideas for implementation of a permission-based contact system at the individual researcher and academic field level are provided at the end.

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