Journal of pain and symptom management 2017 07 12() pii S0885-3924(17)30268-3
Researchers administering surveys seek to balance data quality, sources of error, and practical concerns when selecting an administration mode. Rarely are decisions about survey administration based on the background of study participants, though socio-demographic characteristics like age, education, and race may contribute to participants’ (non)responses.
In this study, we describe differences in paper- and web-based surveys administered in a national cancer survivor study of women with a history of cancer in order to compare the ability of each survey administrative mode to provide quality, generalizable data.
We compared paper- and web-based survey data by socio-demographic characteristics of respondents, missing data rates, scores on primary outcome measure, and administrative costs and time using descriptive statistics, tests of mean group differences, and linear regression.
Our findings indicate that more potentially vulnerable patients preferred paper questionnaires and that data quality, responses, and costs significantly varied by mode and participants’ demographic information. We provide targeted suggestions for researchers conducting survey research to reduce survey error and increase generalizability of study results to the patient population of interest.
Researchers must carefully weigh the pros and cons of survey administration modes to ensure a representative sample and high-quality data.