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Online surveys and diaries are a natural fit.  Unlike telephone surveys, which are more times than not conducted at the convenience of the survey firm (instead of the survey respondent), the online environment encourages respondents to participate when convenient to them, to answer questions with reflection and care, and to participate with low overall burden.  All of these factors are important, because diary surveys tend to involve high-cognitive effort as short-term memory must be accessed, and because diary surveys tend to require multiple interactions with the survey.

Another reason for the natural fit is the advantages made possible by the Web-based mode of data collection itself.  Consider the alternative to Web-based interviewing:  i) in-person interviewing is too expensive; (ii) paper and pencil interviewing involves long lists of activities or consumer products that are difficult for the respondent to digest; or (iii) telephone interviewing is too dependent on unaided respondent recall for accurate measurements. 

The online mode, in contrast, lowers the burden on respondents and improves accuracy by intelligently displaying activity and consumer product lists through branching from the general to the specific.  With three mouse clicks, a respondent can quickly view a subset of the relevant choices that otherwise would have been made available to the respondent through a list of hundreds and possibly thousands of choices.  Moreover, with the Web mode, the study can be designed such that the respondent interacts with the survey when events in his or her life trigger a request to participate (e.g., notification from the researcher by email that an environmental event occurred earlier in the day).

Please contact us for help in thinking through the design possibilities for online diary surveys for your study needs.

For more information, contact:

J. Michael Dennis
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