Research Methods for Information Research

3. Some types of interview

3.9 e-questionnaires

One of the advantages (or disadvantages?) of the growth in e-mail access is that it makes the targeted distribution of questionnaires both easy and cheap, and there may still be some curiosity value in finding them in your in-box. Since, if you are working in any kind of substantial organisation or are part of a professional network, you have probably set aside time to catch up with all those e-mails, you just might be tempted to respond to an e-questionnaire. The technology offers other options, too. It is now easy to ‘park’ a questionnaire on a website so that visitors are more or less obliged to respond (especially if it is linked to registration on that site), and the technological advances also make it easy to capture and analyse on-line responses. As a result, the e-questionnaire is becoming almost irresistible to the inexperienced service evaluator - and to the lazy researcher. e-questionnaires have the same limitations as other types of questionnaire with the added disadvantage that the notion of a response rate can become almost meaningless, unless you take care to ensure that only your chosen sample receive the questionnaire (and even then it may be copied to other people who might be interested).

Questionnaire surveys are only useful if they are well designed and constructed (unambiguous and free from obvious bias), if there is a high enough response rate (a big if) and if the results are sufficiently statistically significant to allow for reliable extrapolation.