Aim To review the advantages and disadvantages of e-questionnaires, and question whether or not reported disadvantages remain valid or can be limited or circumvented.
Background The internet is likely to become the dominant medium for survey distribution, yet nurses and midwives have been slow to use online technology for research involving questionnaires. Relatively little is known about optimal methods of harnessing the internet’s potential in health studies.
Data source A small e-questionnaire of health workers.
Review methods The Medline and Maternity and Infant Care databases were searched for articles containing the words ‘web’, ‘online’, or ‘internet’ and ‘survey’ or ‘questionnaire’. The search was restricted to articles in English published since 2000. The reference lists of retrieved articles were also searched.
Discussion Reported disadvantages of online data collection, such as sample bias, psychometric distortions, ‘technophobia’ and lower response rates are discussed and challenged. The author reports her experience of conducting a survey with an e-questionnaire to contribute to the limited body of knowledge in this area, and suggests how to maximise the quantity and quality of responses to e-questionnaires.
Conclusion E-questionnaires offer the researcher an inexpensive, quick and convenient way to collect data. Many of the reported disadvantages of the medium are no longer valid. The science of conducting the perfect e-survey is emerging. However, the lessons learned in the author’s study, together with other research, seem to suggest that satisfactory response rates and data quality can be achieved in a relatively short time if certain tactics are used.
Implications for research/practice To get the best results from e-questionnaires, it is suggested that the questionnaire recipients should be targeted carefully and that the value of their potential contribution to the project should be emphasised. E-questionnaires should be convenient, quick and easy to access, and be set out in a way that encourages full and complete responses.