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Online research: surveys & polls

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With the right tools, it’s easy to perform online research that will yield reliable data quickly, easily, and with lower costs than traditional research methods. Let’s discuss online research, how to conduct it, and best practices for obtaining the necessary information. 

Online research

Online research is a research method in which you collect data and information on the internet. You can conduct surveys, polls, questionnaires, focus groups, and even interviews online.

Advantages of online research

The advantages of online research include:

  • Access to global information: you can obtain data from your target market regardless of your proximity to their locations
  • Low cost and effort: online research is much easier to conduct and is more cost effective than traditional research methods
  • Updated information: with many researchers posting their studies online, you can find up-to-date data without collecting it yourself
  • Ease of conducting research: disseminate links to your surveys, polls, and questionnaires via email, social media, or QR codes

Limitations of online research

As with any research method, there are limitations:

  • Cooperation issues: your research request may be lost among the myriad of emails people receive on a daily basis
  • Data unreliability: with no moderator or administrator to answer clarifying questions, some responses may be questionable
  • Limited to populations with internet access: this method will only work with people who have access and are comfortable using the internet

Methods for conducting online research

Below are the four main methods and techniques for conducting online research.

Online surveys

Online surveys are a great way to capture data from your target population. Once you’ve determined the overall purpose of your research, start with one of our survey templates or formulate your survey questions to find the answers you need for your research.

Online polls

A poll usually consists of one question with multiple choice answers. They are fast and easy to conduct. Some people use the word “poll” as a synonym for “survey.”

Online focus groups

This online research method is usually used in business-to-business (B2B) research, political research, and consumer research. An online moderator conducts and supervises the group on a video conferencing platform. 

Online interviews 

This online research method is similar to a face-to-face interview, but the discussion is conducted online instead of in person. 

How to deliver your research surveys

  • Online. Create your online survey in minutes, generating a link you can send in email through SurveyMonkey or post on your website.
  • On Mobile Devices. With surveys optimized for use on mobile devices, including iPhones, iPads, Kindle Nook readers, and Android devices—SurveyMonkey makes it easy for you to go mobile when you do your research.
  • On Social Media Platforms. Interested in conducting research with groups on social or professional networks? Embed your survey link on a Facebook page, or tweet it to recipients.

Online Research Best Practices

We’ve helped millions of people get their research done. If you need a little more help, check out our guides on how to create and conduct surveysand how to run your own market research program; here are some ideas for encouraging respondents to complete your surveys.

  1. Introduce your objective. Provide context with a brief sentence. Tell survey takers why you’re asking these questions and how their feedback will help. For example, say “Your feedback will help us understand how which services are most important to you.”
  2. Use human language. Be as clear with language as possible, to ensure that your respondents understand your questions.
  3. Use simple question types. For example, use Likert or multiple choice questions instead of larger, hard-to-scale matrix question types.
  4. Understand your objectives. Tailor your questions to capture data directly related to your research objective. Extraneous data will make analysis more difficult.
  5. Follow up as needed. If you don’t receive a response within a few days of your request, follow up with participants to remind them of your research, and that timeliness is appreciated.
  6. Consider incentives. Offers, discounts, gift cards, and other incentives can increase your response rate.
  7. Avoid leading and biased questions. Use concise wording and provide what the respondent needs to yield an informed answer.

Use cases for online research

Surveys can be a great research tool – but your data is only as good as the science of the survey. It’s a causal relationship. SurveyMonkey offers an extensive collection of templates and survey types you can use as the basis of your research surveys. And all of our survey template questions, including each certified question in our Question Bank, are written by professional survey methodologists. Check out these and other survey templates for your research projects. (Please note that some of these surveys are only available in English at this time.)

Demographics research

Use a series of surveys, including long and short demographics surveys, to understand the background of your research respondents. Use templates such as Education Demographics, Military Service and Government Support for more detailed demographic data.

Market research

What’s the appetite for the new product or service you’re introducing? Have you tried an opinion poll? Use our 20-question Market Research survey to explore respondents’ opinions, their preference for your restaurant or business offerings over the competition’s, and their willingness to recommend.

User experience research and questionnaire design

As part of your research, explore the quality of targeted users’ experiences on websites. Survey visitors to find out how they respond to a site and if they were able to find the information they needed. Poll target audiences to determine individuals’ use of smartphones and applications to plan your mobile strategy. Use survey feedback to design engaging user experiences online and on mobile devices.

Research for non-profits

A cost-effective way to gather insights, online surveys and questionnaires can help nonprofit organizations identify donors’ reasons for contributing and help you plan activities that will drive engagement and investment.

Academic research

Deliver surveys as a research tool to test your classroom or lecture hall theories. Use sampling procedures and surveys for pilots and pretests, longitudinal studies, and field training and testing.

Health and human services research

Explore patient demographics, behaviors, access to healthcare, gender health issues, and community outreach programs. Use healthcare, medical research, and health and nutrition surveys to explore ways to improve patient and community wellness and healthcare services and to improve your data collection.

Research in child development and education

Use surveys from SurveyMonkey’s collection of Education, School, and Academic Online survey templates for research projects on family and school relationships, educational outcomes, school climate, online learning programs, and student satisfaction.

Leverage templates such as the Harvard Graduate School of Education Pre K-12 Parent survey for parents’ detailed feedback on their children’s education experience.

Reach the right respondents

Need more data? SurveyMonkey Audience offers DIY and aided approaches to help you reach the right audience and a statistically valid sample size for your research. Design your survey, click to send, and then select “Buy a Targeted Audience” to choose the respondents and audience size you want.

Start your online research here

Whatever type of research you need, start at SurveyMonkey. Our Audience market research solution will find your ideal respondents from around the world in minutes. 

Fuel your research with SurveyMonkey Audience.

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