PSR Conference: Measuring from a Distance: The Emerging Science of Internet-Based Survey Research


Friday, February 28, 2014, 9:30am to 4:30pm


CGIS South, Tsai Auditorium, S010, 1730 Cambridge St.

Web surveys seem to be everywhere, and yet the science of conducting web surveys only emerging. The widespread availability of online survey software and platforms now makes it possible to design and administer a survey quickly, readily, and seemingly easily. Researchers across the substantive fields have abundantly taken advantage of these tools, and the social and medical sciences are increasingly coming to rely on self-administered web surveys as a primary source of data. The science of survey research is still catching up, with researchers only beginning to understand the implications -- both for good and for ill -- of web-based surveys on the quality of data.
One difference between web surveys and traditional surveys is the focus on visual communication. Keynote speaker Roger Tourangeau will discuss research on a variety of elements of visual design, and examine the impact of the prominence or visibility of information on screen. Tourangeau is an author on more than 60 research articles, many of them on the design of web surveys. He is also the lead author of a new book on web survey design (The Science of Web Surveys) with Fred Conrad and Mick Couper, published by Oxford University Press last year.
Other speakers will join to talk about emerging work in other areas of internet survey research. Fred Conrad will speak on new and innovative aspects of web surveys design; Lee Rainie will discuss how the rise of mobile connectivity and the “internet of things” may impact survey researchers; Leslie John will discuss tendencies to reveal embarrassing or sensitive things on the web; Michael Schoeber will discuss how elements of survey design can be linked to the disclosure of sensitive behaviors.

Open to the Public

Schedule of Events

9:30 – 10:00 Continental Breakfast

10:00 – 10:15 Introduction and Welcome (Peter V. Marsden; Harvard University)

10:15 – 11:45 Keynote Address – – Roger Tourangeau

The Impact of the Visible: Visual Issues in the Design of Web Surveys

Questions and discussion to follow.

 11:45 – 12:45 Lunch

12:45 – 2:15 New Directions in Internet Survey Research

Interactivity in Web Surveys

Fred Conrad; University of Michigan

Designed and Designer Data: How the rise of mobile connectivity and the “internet of things” makes life better in the survey world – probably

Lee Rainie; Pew Internet and American Life Project

 2:15 – 2:30 Dessert

 2:30 – 4:00  Disclosing and Measuring Sensitive Behaviors

The Impact of Relative Standards on the Propensity to Disclose Sensitive Behaviors on the Internet  

Leslie John ; Harvard Business School

Why do survey respondents disclose more when computers ask the questions

Michael Schober; The New School

 4:00 – 4:15 Concluding Discussion and New Directions


 This conference, hosted by the Program on Survey Research at the Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences at Harvard University and part of the Eric C. Mindich Experimental Social Science conference series, will benchmark the current state of our knowledge and suggest future directions for research.

See also: PSR events