Special issue: Advancements in Online and Mobile Survey Methods

The editors: Bella Struminskaya & Florian Keusch


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The goal of this special issue is to contribute to knowledge about the current state of online and mobile survey methods, focusing on the components of the Total Survey Error framework for cross-sectional and panel surveys as well as augmenting survey data with other data types. The issue includes eight papers that cover different aspects of recent technological advancements that drive innovation and enable new measurement capabilities that potentially allow new and deeper insights into human interactions, attitudes, and behaviors.

Editorial: From web surveys to mobile web to apps, sensors, and digital traces Special issue

Bella Struminskaya, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Florian Keusch, University of Mannheim, Germany


Using Facebook and Instagram to Recruit Web Survey Participants: A Step-by-Step Guide and Application Special issue

Simon Kühne, Faculty of Sociology, Bielefeld University, Germany
Zaza Zindel, Faculty of Sociology, Bielefeld University, Germany


In many countries and contexts, survey researchers are facing decreasing response rates and increasing survey costs. Data collection is even more complex and expensive when rare or hard-to-reach populations are to be sampled and surveyed. In such cases alternative sampling and recruiting approaches are usually needed, including non-probability and online convenience sampling. A rather novel approach to recruiting rare populations for online and mobile-device surveys uses advertisements on social media networks. This paper provides a step-by-step guide on how to recruit web-survey participants via ads on Facebook and Instagram – two of the largest social networks worldwide. Researchers may use …


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Comparison of Quarterly and Yearly Calibration Data for Propensity Score Adjusted Web Survey Estimates Special issue

Katherine E. Irimata, Yulei He, Bill Cai, Hee-Choon Shin, Van L. Parsons, Jennifer D. Parker
National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, USA


While web surveys have become increasingly popular as a method of data collection, there is concern that estimates obtained from web surveys may not reflect the target population of interest. Web survey estimates can be calibrated to existing national surveys using a propensity score adjustment, although requirements for the size and collection timeline of the reference data set have not been investigated. We evaluate health outcomes estimates from the National Center for Health Statistics’ Research and Development web survey. In our study, the 2016 National Health Interview Survey as well as its quarterly subsets are considered as reference datasets for …


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Text Message (SMS) Pre-notifications, Invitations and Reminders for Web Surveys Special issue

Ioannis Andreadis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece


This paper presents the findings derived from a mobile friendly web survey, during which all invitations and reminders were sent as text messages via short message service (SMS) to the mobile telephones of the target group. The web survey under study was conducted for the National Theatre of Northern Greece (NTNG), the largest theatrical organization of Greece. The list of mobile phone numbers was provided by the organization and the aim of the survey was to collect data from people who have attended events organized by NTNG. The paper examines the impact of various design study features such as pre-notifications, …


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Device effects on survey response quality. A comparison of smartphone, tablet and PC responses on a cross sectional probability sample Special issue

Sanne Lund Clement, Department of Politics and Society, Aalborg University, Denmark
Majbritt Kappelgaard Severin-Nielsen, Department of Politics and Society, Aalborg University, Denmark
Ditte Shamshiri-Petersen, Department of Politics and Society, Aalborg University, Denmark


The increasing use of web surveys and different devices for survey completion calls for the examination of device effects on survey response quality. Whereas most existing studies are based on web panels, subgroups (e.g., students), or short questionnaires designed for device experiments, which compels participants to respond through specific devices, this study is based on two large, nationally representative cross-sectional samples (ISSP 2018 and ISSP 2019) in which the completion device was chosen by the respondent. Seven indicators of response quality are applied, which allows comparison among survey participants answering the questionnaire on a smartphone, tablet, or PC. The results …


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Page switching in mixed-device web surveys: prevalence and data quality Special issue

Tobias Baier, Darmstadt University of Technology, Germany
Marek Fuchs, Darmstadt University of Technology, Germany


As a self-administered survey mode, web surveys allow respondents to temporarily leave the survey page and switch to another web page in a different browser tab or to another window/app. This form of sequential multitasking has the potential to disrupt the response process and reduce data quality if respondents become distracted (Krosnick, 1991; Sendelbah et al., 2016). Browser data indicating respondents leaving the survey page allow non-reactive measurement of their multitasking. We investigated the prevalence of page switching, number of switching events and time spent absent per event with respect to respondents’ characteristics and devices used. Furthermore, we analysed the …


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Collecting and using always-on location data in surveys Special issue

Stephanie Eckman, RTI International, USA
Rob Chew, RTI International, USA
Herschel Sanders, RTI International, USA
Robert Furberg, RTI International, USA


As survey costs increase and response rates decrease, researchers are looking for alternative methods to collect data from study subjects. Passively collected data may offer a way to reduce the burden on research subjects while also collecting high-quality data needed for social science research. Examples of passive data collection tools are applications installed on mobile devices and sensors in subjects’ homes or worn on the body. In this study, we focus on always-on location data collected from subjects’ iPhones. To explore the promise of passively collected data to augment and improve survey data, we conducted a 2-week pilot study with …


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Using Geofences to Collect Survey Data: Lessons Learned From the IAB-SMART Study Special issue

Haas, Georg-Christoph, Institute for Employment Research, University of Mannheim, Germany
Trappmann, Mark, Institute for Employment Research; University of Bamberg, Germany
Keusch, Florian, University of Mannheim, Germany
Bähr, Sebastian, Institute for Employment Research, Germany
Kreuter, Frauke, Institute for Employment Research, Germany; University of Mannheim, Germany; University of Maryland, USA


Within the survey context, a geofence can be defined as a geographical area that triggers a survey invitation when an individual enters the area, dwells in the area for a defined amount of time or exits the area. Geofences may be used to administer context-specific surveys, such as an evaluation survey of a shopping experience at a specific retail location. While geofencing is already used in other contexts (e.g., marketing and retail), this technology seems so far to be underutilized in survey research. We implemented a geofence survey in a smartphone data collection project and geofenced 410 job centers with …


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Multi-mode question pretesting: Using traditional cognitive interviews and online testing as complementary methods Special issue

Robin L. Kaplan, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, USA
Jennifer Edgar, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, USA


Questionnaire development, evaluation, and pretesting research is critical for ensuring that survey questions, materials, and data collection procedures produce the highest quality data possible. Interviewer-administered cognitive interviews is a common pretesting method used to collect rich, qualitative data. As technology has advanced, researchers can conduct similar research online in self-administered modes (Behr 2016), allowing for pretesting with larger samples. Each approach has strengths and limitations that researchers can leverage to address their pretesting goals. This research presents a multi-study, iterative project using traditional and online pretesting to evaluate new confidentiality language. Study 1 used traditional cognitive interviews to collect information …


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