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Literature Review

Case Studies
   Case Study 1
   Case Study 2
   Case Study 3
   Case Study 4
   Case Study 5





Case Studies Index

Review of graphical environments on the WWW as a means of widening public participation in social science research

4.1 Case Study 1: Psychology Survey, Psychology Department, York University, Toronto, Ontario.

Psychology has always had a tradition of undertaking extensive experimenting and surveying of the human population. It therefore appears as no surprise that compared to other social science disciplines psychologists are already relatively active in web-based surveying. This case study is typical of the many studies which can now be participated in on-line. This particular web site involves answering a personality test with the specific objective of being...

"used to find out who likes to respond to WWW questionnaires, and how well people are able to answer psychology questionnaires on the Web"

(Pettit, 1997, URL:

The researcher acknowledges the fact that the web has great potential for researchers who need to collect a lot of data quickly and easily.

The methods of interaction with the web interface involves three types of action. Respondents are asked a series of questions (see Figure 4.1 below) and have to decide if they either `Disagree Strongly', `Disagree', were `Neutral', `Agree' or `Agree Strongly' with the question by clicking in the appropriate box. A set of true/false questions are also presented together with numerous questions which require the participant to fill in boxes using the keyboard. A total of 104 questions are included in the survey, 82 concerning personality and 22 about individual characteristics. The justification for choosing a web-based approach is indicative of the research due to its main aims of investigating how people respond to computer based surveys on the WWW as opposed to more traditional paper-based methods.

A further aim of the research was to identify which groups of people enjoyed answering psychology surveys on the WWW. Care and attention needs to be paid to the fact that there will be inevitable biases in the sample population due to the current levels of access to the Internet. This will limit the generalisations which can be made in any conclusions of web-based surveying and research, although these problems are likely to become less important as Internet access increases. Traditionally based methods are also used by the researcher to compare the results of the two techniques being used. The reasoning behind doing this is so that the...

"answers will be compared with answers from people who filled out the same questionnaire on paper. The information will then indicate if people are able to complete on-line surveys as easily as they can complete paper and pencil surveys." (Pettit, 1997, URL:

The use of graphical visualisation is not a necessary requirement of this type of survey to communicate the substantive element of the research. Several psychological experiments which examine the relationship and perceptions of facial features and age have been undertaken on the WWW, see for example <>, although these surveys are no longer active. These types of web-based surveys and experiments involve providing participants with photographs and a series of questions. Obviously in these types of surveys the photograph is an integral part of the research and plays a fundamental role in the survey.

The web site containing the full questionnaire can be viewed and participated in at the following URL: <>. Several thousand responses have been received by the researcher since April 1997 when the final version of the questionnaire went on-line. The analysis of the responses at the time of writing is underway and the experiment appears to have been particularly successful.

Figure 4.1: Extract from Pettit's On-Line Questionnaire

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