Computer-assisted web interviewing (CAWI)

Computer-assisted web interviewing (CAWI) is a Internet surveying technique in which the interviewer follows a script provided in a website. The questionnaires are made in a program for creating web interviews. The program allows for the questionnaire to contain pictures, audio and video clips, links to different web pages, etc. The website is able to customize the flow of the questionnaire based on the answers provided, as well as information already known about the participant. It’s considered to be a cheaper way of surveying since you don’t need to use people to hold surveys unlike Computer-assisted telephone interviewing. With the increasing use of the Internet, online questionnaires have become a popular way of collecting information. The design of an online questionnaire often has an effect on the quality of data gathered. There are many factors in designing an online questionnaire; guidelines, available question formats, administration, quality and ethic issues should be reviewed. Online questionnaires should be seen as a sub-set of a wider-range of online research methods.

Using online questionnaires

There are several reasons why someone would utilize online questionnaires as their preferred testing method. A few of the advantages and disadvantages of this method have been summarized below:

– The administrator has greater flexibility in displaying questions. Questions can be displayed with:
    – Check boxes
    – Pull down menus
    – Pop up menus
    – Help screens
    – Sub menus
– An online forum allows responses to be received more quickly from subjects.
– This method is also cheaper to administer, as there are no costs associated with purchasing paper or other materials for printing. Postage costs are also mitigated.
– Since data is collected into a central database, the time for analysis is subsequently reduced.
– It is easier to correct errors on an online questionnaire, since the administrator does not have to reprint all the questionnaires for distribution.


– Not everyone has access to the Internet, so the response rate is limited.
– Many people are not receptive to completing questionnaires online.
– Studies indicate that the demographic that responds to online questionnaire invitations are generally biased to younger people.

Questionnaire design

An online questionnaire needs to be carefully thought through before it is launched. There are several important paradigms that should be considered when creating an online questionnaire.

Collection and prioritization of data

– The objectives of the initial inquiry need to be reviewed to determine what information needs to be gathered.
– The required information should be ranked in order of significance in an unbiased manner. Topics should not lead a person into making false conclusions.

Online questionnaire format

– The questionnaire should begin with a short introduction that informs the subject why the questionnaire is being conducted.
– Questions for questionnaire should be created in the most appropriate type of format that facilitates understanding.
– In creating the layout of the online questionnaire, “smart branching” should be utilized to lessen complexity. For example, if a subject selects “yes” to a question, the questionnaire would automatically jump to the next relevant question and vice versa.
– A brief “thank you” note should be included at the end of the questionnaire.

Questionnaire length

As a rule of thumb, the questionnaire should not exceed 5 minutes.
– Generally, 4 multiple choice questions take 1 minute.
– One short answer question is equivalent to 3 multiple choice questions.


A sample of the questionnaire should be distributed to at least 5 people, prior to publication on the web. Upon their completion of the questionnaire, feedback from the participants should be obtained.
– Information relating to whether they understood the main point of the questionnaire should be gathered.
– It is important to distinguish if participants had any difficulties with any of the questions.
– The feedback of the subjects should be utilized to make any necessary changes to the questionnaire.

Responses to online questionnaires

Response rates are frequently quite low and there is a danger that they will continue to drop due to over-surveying of web-users.

Jon Krosnick argues that the following three factors determine the successfulness of the questionnaire and the likelihood of achieving decent levels of response.

– Respondent ability
– Respondent motivation
– Task difficulty/questionnaire design

Bosnjak and Tuten argue that there are at least seven ways in which online survey’s are responded to.

They establish the following typology

1. Complete Responders are those respondents who view all questions and answer all questions.
2. Unit nonresponders are those individuals who do not participate in the survey. There are two possible variations to the unit nonresponder. Such an individual could be technically-hindered from participation, or he or she may purposefully withdraw after the welcome screen is displayed, but prior to viewing any questions.
3. Answering Drop-Outs consist of individuals who provide answers to those questions displayed, but quit prior to completing the survey.
4. Lurkers view all of the questions in the survey, but do not answer any of the questions.
5. Lurking Drop-Outs represent a combination of 3 and 4. Such a participant views some of the questions without answering, but also quits the survey prior to reaching the end.
6. Item nonresponders view the entire questionnaire, but only answer some of the questions.
7. Item non-responding drop-outs represent a mixture of 3 and 6. Individuals displaying this response behavior view some of the questions, answer some but not all of the questions viewed, and also quit prior to the end of the survey.