Interactivity in Web SurveysOccasional Seminars

As people communicate through many new technologies and media, the number of possible survey modes increases accordingly. This suggests we might need to reconsider how we think about modes of data collection. For example, instead of distinguishing simply between interviewer- and self-administered questionnaires, it now makes more sense to distinguish between modes that are (potentially) interactive and modes that are not. Web surveys have typically been considered to be self-administered but because of their potential interactivity they can embody some of the attributes of interviewer-administration (e.g., the ability to clarify question meaning and to motivate respondents) and can provide feedback in real time (e.g., automatic summation, progress indicators). In this seminar, I present recent research into interactivity in web surveys looking at its impact on data quality and completion rates. The research explores interactivity in both conventional (textual) web questionnaires and technology that is on the horizon, i.e., virtual (animated) interviewers displayed in a browser. The results are varied: interactivity helps under some circumstances, for example, when respondents are able to obtain definitions and make sure they understand questions as intended; and it hurts under other circumstances such as when it gives respondents the sense that “someone else” is present while they answer sensitive questions; finally, respondents ignore interactive features when their use requires even minimal effort (like a mouse click) to initiate the interaction. Certainly designing for an interactive medium like the web requires different considerations than designing for a static medium like paper.

Presented by:

Frederick Conrad (Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan)

Date & time:

November 5, 2009 4:00 pm - November 5, 2009 5:30 pm


Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest