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Report National Centre for Research Methods Report

Web surveys for the general population: how, why and when?


Publication date

Feb 2014


Cultural and technological change has made the web a possible and even
desirable mode for complex social surveys, but the financial challenges
faced by the Research Councils and the UK Government has accelerated
this shift, creating an urgent need to explore both its potential and
hazards for a range of studies. While some progress in carrying out
large-scale complex social surveys on the web has been made, there is
still no consensus about how this can best be achieved while maintaining
population representativeness and preserving data quality.
To address this problem, the NCRM funded a network of methodological
innovation “Web Surveys for the General Population: How, Why and When?”
(also known by its acronym GenPopWeb). A key objective of the network’s
activities was to review and synthesise existing knowledge about the use
of web-based data collection for general population samples and to
identify areas where new research is needed.
In this report, the authors provide a summary of the main issues
identified by the network (chapter 2), present the key barriers to using
web for surveys of the general population (chapter 3), propose a
research agenda for the social science community (chapter 4), argue the
case for a UK probability-based web panel (chapter 5), and conclude with
recommendations for an infrastructure for enabling a transition to web
platforms (chapter 6).



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