Managing Participants with Web Survey Software
One of the key tasks when gathering opinions online is to manage your participants – the people who will take your survey. If you just post a survey on a Web page, you have little control and few management needs. Those kinds of surveys have reliability problems, since you don’t know to what extent the people to take them represent the population which you are interested, and because people may be able to take them multiple times, if they wish to stack the results.
Because of these problems, most researchers who gather online opinions send out invitations to take the survey to a list of people they have in advance. When you do so, you do have management needs. The first is to be able to import a list of people with their email addresses from an Excel spreadsheet or another source. Then you need to be able to send out email invitations with a link to the survey. Then you need to be able to send out reminder messages to those, and only those, who did not take the survey.
The most sophisticated web survey software lets you import names and other information you may have about the people in your list and combine that information with their survey answers. You should also be able to use any or all of the information you imported along with addresses to personalize the email invitations you send to them.
Another management ability you should have is the ability to edit information you have about your participants. It is often easiest to do this in spreadsheet form.
The most capable web survey software also lets you make subsets of participants. For example, you may be doing a project that requires you to contact people who answered your questions in one stage of the study again at one or more later stages. You should be able to extract only the people who completed the first wave of the project from your participant list to be invited to take the next stage. Ideally, you should have the ability to combine their earlier answers with their answers in the next stage to make it easier to compare and contrast any changes.
A related ability is to be able to let people edit information you already have about them – either answers they gave to an earlier questionnaire or other information you have associated with them.