About this Resource
[Skip navigation][Access key info]SEARCH | SITE MAP
Exploring online research methods - Incorporating TRI-ORM


[Skip instructions]

[i] Click on the headings to open them. They will open on this page. Open the following link for further information about these headings if required.

Your browser does not support these headings. To ensure that the contents remain accessible, they have been automatically opened so that all the information on the page is displayed.

However, to take advantage of the headings and to ensure that the layout and design of this site are displayed correctly, you are recommended to upgrade to a current version of one of the following standards compliant browsers:



Open/close headingAccessibility

The accessibility of a web page refers to the extent to which users can access the content regardless of the technology they use and any disability they may have. An accessible web page is one that is designed to ensure that this is possible through, for example, providing textual descriptions of graphics used to allow their significance to be described in text-only browsers or via screen-reading software.

Open/close headingActive server pages (ASP)

A framework developed by Microsoft for providing server-side processing capabilities and database functionalities. Now largely superceded by a more-recent version, ASP.NET.

Open/close headingAnswering drop-outs

Questionnaire respondents who provide answers to those questions displayed, but quit prior to completing the survey. (Bojniak et. al., 1991, p.12)

Open/close headingApache

Freely-available open-source server software which is one of the most widely-used examples of server software on the internet.

Open/close headingAsynchronous online interviews

Online interviews which take place in non-real time, for example using email. An asynchronous interview will usually involve the interviewer posting to a discussion list or emailing interview questions to respondents to answer at their own convenience. Neither party needs to be online at the same time.


Open/close headingBandwidth

A measure of the amount of data that can be sent through a connection, usually described in Kilobits per second (Kbs).

Open/close headingBody

The body section of an HTML document contains the main display content. It is here that text, images, links, form elements, tables and lists are placed.

Open/close headingBroadband

Term used to refer to a high-bandwidth internet connection.

Open/close headingBrowser

Software which requests resources (mainly web pages) from a server computer and displays them. An example of client software held on a client machine.

Open/close headingBulletin board

Another term for a discussion board.

Open/close headingButton

A standard HTML button. Can be linked to JavaScript and perform an action when clicked.
HTML: <input type="button" value = "Standard button" />


Open/close headingCache

An area of a computer's memory used to temporarily store files making up web pages (HTML, graphics, CSS, scripts etc) to increase the speed of access to them. When a user moves back to a previously-viewed web page, the browser loads any elements that have not changed from the cache rather than from the server.

Open/close headingChat

A facility allowing real-time text-based communication between two or more users in virtual spaces known as 'chat rooms'. This usually makes use of IRC (Internet Relay Chat) technology.

Open/close headingCheck box

Square tags that display a mark when selected and can allow multiple responses.
e.g. A B
HTML: <input type="Check box" name="1" value="A"> A <input type="Check box" name="2" value="B"> B

Open/close headingClient

The software that allows a computer to request web pages from a server computer and displays these pages. Also used to refer to the computer on which this software is held.

Open/close headingClient-side scripting

Client-side scripting through scripting languages such as JavaScript allows dynamic or interactive features to be added to web pages. Code is added to a web page which is executed in the browser on the client computer. It can be used to, for example, check for the presence of a cookie indicating that a user has visited the site before, and display a different message according to whether the cookie is found. It can also allow users to display or hide content such as help windows or menu bars by clicking on buttons or links, or carry out different actions according to user actions or input.

Open/close headingComputer-mediated Communication (CMC)

The use of computers and networks to enable communication.

Open/close headingComplete responders

Questionnaire respondents who view and answer all questions in a questionnaire. (Bojniak et. al., 1991, p.12)

[Open/close heading]Cookie

A small file that a web site stores on a user's computer in order to identify that user. Commonly, cookies are used to 'remember' site visitors so that if the visitor has chosen particular options, these are restored on return to the site. For example, this site uses cookies to remember selections added to the personal references list as a visitor moves from page to page.

Open/close headingCross posting

A message or posting sent to more than one mailing list or newsgroup.

Open/close headingCSS

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets - also referred to simply as 'Style Sheets') provide a means of adding design elements to basic HTML pages. For example, using CSS, it is possible to control the colour, positioning and spacing of objects such as text, links, images and tables.


[Open/close heading]Dial-up connection

Term used to describe a temporary connection to the internet using a modem and an ordinary phone line.

[Open/close heading]Digital divide

Term used to describe the situation whereby some regions of the world and some social groups are less 'connected' than others by virtue of their circumstances (nationality, income, age, ethnicity, gender) as some individuals may not have access to computer equipment, software and literacy or internet connections.

Open/close headingDiscussion board (or group or forum)

Web application which allows asynchronous communication to take place. Users post messages which are displayed to all those with access to the board. People can then reply or add to the messages, continuing the discussion in a 'thread' of related postings. Also known as bulletin boards, discussion groups or web / internet forums.

Open/close headingDOCTYPE

A DOCTYPE (document type) definition, known as a DTD should begin an HTML document. This declares what type of page it is and what language is being used, and it allows the page to be validated as conforming to Worldwide Web Consortium (W563C) standards.

Open/close headingDownload

The transfer of a file from a server computer to a client. The opposite process is known as uploading.

Open/close headingDrop down list

An element which allows users to select options by clicking. Only one option is displayed until the user clicks on the arrow.

HTML: <select name="select"> <option>Option 1</option> <option>Option 2</option> <option>Option 3</option> <option>Option 4</option> </select>


Open/close headingEmail questionnaire

An online questionnaire in which the questions are received and submitted as part of an email.

Open/close headingEmoticons

Icons used to express feelings in an email message or in discussion. For example ;-) can be used to represent a wink. Also referred to as 'smileys'.

[Open/close heading]Ethics

Broadly speaking, ethics refers to the standards established within a profession or academic discipline regarding the conduct of its members and is strongly linked to the concept of responsibility (cf Vujakovic and Bullard 2001).

Open/close headingEvent handler

An event handler is a piece of code in programming or scripting languages such as JavaScript that triggers an action when a particular event occurs. Examples of event handles are those that trigger actions when the mouse is clicked, double-clicked or moved, a key is pressed, or a page is loaded or unloaded.


Open/close headingFailed flame

A type of flame as described by O'Sullivan and Flanigan (2003) where the sender intended the message to be aggressive or rude, but it was not received as such.

Open/close headingFirewall

Security filter made up of hardware and software designed to protect individual computers and/or computer networks from access by unauthorized users.

Open/close headingFlame

General term for aggressive or insulting messages or posts.

Open/close headingFlame war

Used to describe a situation in which an online discussion becomes a series of aggressive exchanges or personal attacks.

Open/close headingForm elements/controls

A set of form items that the user can enter data into to be sent to the researcher. Some commonly-used elements are as follows:

Button, Check box, Drop down list, Password box, Radio buttons, Text area, Text box.

Open/close headingForm tags

Form tags mark off the beginning and end of a form. Controls within the form tags are effectively grouped together so that when a submit button is clicked the data in all the controls within the form is sent for processing. It is possible to include multiple forms on a page, but only one form can be submitted at any one time.

Open/close headingFreeware

Software which is distributed for free (with the permission of the copyright holder), usually with certain conditions such as that it should not be modified, sold or redistributed.

Open/close headingFunction

A function is a block of code in programming or scripting languages such as JavaScript that carries out a particular action. In effect the code is not carried out until the function is 'called' from within the document when a particular event occurs (such as the user clicking a submit button).


Open/close headingGraphic Interchange Format (GIF)

One of the two most common types of images in use on the internet (along with JPEGs), GIFs are usually more appropriate for line drawings or graphics with a limited number of colours.


Open/close headingHead

The head section of an HTML document contains information which is basically not intended for display. It is loaded into the browser before the body section and typically includes the DOCTYPE, the page title, meta commands and any CSS and client-side script information.

Open/close headingHidden form fields

Hidden form fields are form controls that are not displayed on the page (though they are visible in the HTML source for the page). They are useful for storing and passing information from page to page which is not necessary or desirable to display. They can be thought of as text boxes with content that can be set by the developer via HTML or JavaScript rather than being completed by the user.

Open/close headingHTML

HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) is the technical language that lies behind most web pages. It consists of tags which surround blocks of text to indicate how they should appear in a browser, and which are used to insert elements such as images or tables.

Open/close headingHTML tags

In an HTML document, tags are used to tell the browser how to present the layout and style of text and other elements. Tags can consist of elements, attributes and values. The element indicates what should be displayed in the browser, and the attributes and values indicate how this should be displayed.

e.g. In the following tag, <p align="center">Hello!</p>, <p></p> is the element which tells the browser to display a new paragraph, align is the attribute and center is the value which indicates that it should be displayed with a centered alignment.


Open/close headingIdentity verification

The process of checking the identity of individuals using official documentation, or by reference to their social characteristics. This can be important in the situation of a virtual anonymous interview.

Open/close headingInternationalisation

Refers to the attempt to increase the scope and materials of knowledge to be relevant to an international audience (not just an Anglo-American audience). The aim is to be inclusive of practices, life worlds and research agendas of the majority world.

Open/close headingInternet service provider (ISP)

An organization which provides user/customer accounts allowing access to the internet.

Open/close headingInternet Protocol (IP) Address

A string of four numbers separated by full-stops which provide a unique identifier for all computers permanently connected to the internet.

Open/close headingItem nonresponders

Questionnaire respondents who view the whole questionnaire, but only answer some of the questions. (Bojniak et. al., 1991, p.12)

Open/close headingItem nonresponding Drop-outs

Questionnaire respondents who view some of the questions, answer some but not all of those viewed, and also quit prior to the end of the survey. A 'more accurate depiction of actual events in web surveys than the relatively basic categorization of complete participation, unit nonresponse, or item non-response.' (Bojniak et. al., 1991, p.12)


Open/close headingJavaScript

The most popular client-side scripting language in use on the internet. JavaScript code is added to an HTML document and is executed in the browser on the client computer. It can be used to, for example, carry out different actions according to user actions or input.

Open/close headingJoint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG)

One of the two most common types of images in use on the internet (along with GIFs), JPEGs are usually suitable for images with a large number of colours such as photographs. The file extension is '.jpg'.



Open/close headingListbox

An element which allows users to select options by clicking. Several options are displayed.

HTML: <select name="select2"> <option>Option 1</option> <option>Option 2</option> <option>Option 3</option> <option>Option 4</option> </select>

Open/close headingListserv

The name of a type of mailing list which is owned by a specific software company and is a registered trade mark.

Open/close headingLurkers (general)

People who read other people's postings on discussion boards, but do not contribute.

Open/close headingLurkers (Questionnaire respondents)

Questionnaire respondents who view all of the questions in the survey, but do not answer any of them. (Bojniak et. al., 1991, p.12)

Open/close headingLurking drop-outs

Questionnaire respondents who view some of the questions without answering, but also quit the survey prior to reaching the end, thus sharing some characteristics with 'answering drop-outs' and 'lurkers'. (Bojniak et. al., 1991, p.12)


Open/close headingMailing list (maillist)

A system in which people subscribe to receive periodic e-mail distributions on a particular topic by adding their email address to a list. Any messages sent to the list will be copied to all of the other subscribers. Mailing lists can be moderated where a list owner reviews all emails prior to distribution, or un-moderated whereby emails are sent immediately without review.

Open/close headingMeasurement error

Error caused by the type or presentation of questions. In terms of online questionnaires, this is indicated when responses to the same question vary if the questionnaire is administered online or onsite.

Open/close headingMissed flame

A type of flame as described by O'Sullivan and Flanigan (2003) where only the intended recipient does not see the message as a flame. The sender intended the message to be aggressive or rude, and onlookers see it as such.

Open/close headingModerator

Person who owns or runs a discussion board or mailing list. Usually has the administrative permissions to move or delete postings.

Open/close headingMOO

A type of MUD (See below). The acronym stands for 'MUD Object Oriented' and refers to the technology used which differs from that used in MUDs.

Open/close headingMUD

Multi-User Domain, Dimension, or Dungeon: A technology allowing interaction to take place between participants on geographically-dispersed computers. Originally used for interactive gaming environments, they are now used for many other interactions including in education and research.

Open/close headingMySQL

A freely-available open source database server, which can be downloaded and installed to allow database functionality to be added to a web page. It is frequently used in combination with PHP to allow databases to be added to and accessed over the internet.


Open/close headingNetiquette

Term used to describe the code of conduct between those communicating on the internet. It is concerned with internet courtesy and protocols and is directed at preventing aggressive and insulting behaviour. It is frequently flexible and includes often unspoken rules about what is considered appropriate and polite and respectful behaviour online.

Open/close headingNewbie flame

A type of flame as described by O'Sullivan and Flanigan (20041) where both recipient and onlooker see the message as inappropriate, but the sender does not.

Open/close headingNewsgroup

Similar to mailing lists, newsgroups are message areas defined by a particular subject matter.

Open/close headingNon-probabilistic sampling

A sub-set of users are selected for the research frame.

Open/close headingNon-response bias

Bias caused when respondents who answer an online questionnaire have very different attitudes or demographic characteristics to those who do not respond.


Open/close headingOpen source

In general terms, open source software allows for users to access the source code for free and allows it to be modified and redistributed. A full definition is available at www.opensource.org.

Open/close headingOptimisation

The process of reducing as much as possible the file size and download time of resources such as web-graphics while maintaining a suitable level of quality.


Open/close headingParalinguistic features

Non-verbal elements of communication which provide meaning beyond the words uttered. In face-to-face communication, this includes features such as intonation, posture, expression and gesture. In online communication, this refers to the use of features such as emoticons, abbreviations, capitalisation, font and colour.

Open/close headingPassword box

Text input box that allows a single line of text to be entered. It is possible to limit the size and number of characters that can be entered. As the user types, the characters are hidden from display.
HTML: <input type="password" size="15" maxlength="10" />

Open/close headingPath

A reference to a file and it's location in a series of folders held on a computer.

e.g. C:\Documents and Settings\ My Documents\ main_site\ section560\ page560.htm refers to an HTML page called 'page 560' held in the c drive of a local computer in a folder called section 560, held in a series of folders in 'Documents and Settings'.

Open/close headingPHP

A freely-available server-side scripting language which can be downloaded and installed to allow the addition of server-side processing capabilities to web pages.

Open/close headingPortal site

A web site which aims to act as an entry point to users of the internet from which they can access a range of information within the site itself and/or through links to other sites.

Open/close headingPosting

A single message added to a discussion board or mailing list.

Open/close headingProbabilistic sampling

Each member of the sampling frame has an equal chance of being selected.



[Open/close heading]Racial ravine

Term coined to describe the divide in the use of the internet in the USA, where only 5% of users are African-America and Latino households are even less likely to use the internet (Thurlow et al. 2004, 87)

Open/close headingRadio buttons

Circular tags that fill in when one option is selected.
e.g. Yes No
HTML: <input type="radio" name="1" value="Yes" / > Yes <input type="radio" name="1" value="No" /> No

Open/close headingReset button

A reset button clears any form data that has been input, returning them to the original values they had when the page was loaded.
HTML: <input type="reset" value="Reset" />


Open/close headingSearch engine

Web services that hold information about the contents of websites on the Worldwide Web which can be searched by users who wish to locate information on particular subjects. Typically, the user enters key words and the search engine returns a list of links to sites which include, or contain information connected to, these key words.

Open/close headingSecure Socket Layer (SSL)

An internet security protocol designed to provide private connections through encryption of data transferred between computers.

Open/close headingServer

A computer which delivers web pages to a client computer when a URL is typed into the address bar of a browser on that computer. Also used to refer to the software held on the server computer which allows this process to take place.

Open/close headingServer-side processing

Server-side processing allows dynamic or interactive features to be added to web pages. This is done by the server computer before the page is sent to the client computer. Server-side processing can be accomplished using a range of technologies such as PHP, ASP(X), Perl/CGI and ColdFusion. It can be used to, for example, validate and process information entered by users into web forms, store or retrieve information in databases, and automatically send emails.

Open/close headingShareware

Software made available on a 'try before you buy' basis which usually has a limited or time-constrained functionality. Users can then decide whether or not to register and pay for the software to activate full functionality, unlimited use and / or documentation.

Open/close headingSkip mechanisms

Functionalities added to an online questionnaire which automatically provide participants with a route through the questionnaire, avoiding questions that are not relevant. When a question is answered, the next question will be delivered according to the response so that different questions are provided depending on particular answers.

Open/close headingSmiley

Icons used to express feelings in an email message or in discussion. For example ;-) can be used to represent a wink. Also referred to as 'emoticons'.

Open/close headingSnowballing

A sampling method whereby one individual is contacted for a specific piece of research and they recommend further contacts. Recruitment therefore gains momentum, or 'snowballs' as the research progresses.

Open/close headingSpamming

Sending the same unsolicited message to a large group of people via email or by posting to a discussion list.

Open/close headingSubmit button

A submit button sends the form data to the server when clicked. The action of doing this depends on the form action specified. Most commonly it will be to email the results or add them to a database.
HTML: <input type="submit" value="Submit" />

Open/close headingSynchronous online interviews

Online interviews which most closely resemble a traditional research interview in that they take place in 'real time' in an environment such as an internet chat room. All participants must be online simultaneously and questions and answers are posted in a way which mimics a traditional interview.


Open/close headingText area

Allows the user to input a large amount of text. By default, the text will wrap onto a new line when the end of a line is reached, and a scroll-bar will appear on the right-hand side when the number of lines displayed is exceeded.
HTML: <textarea cols="60" rows="5"></textarea>

Open/close headingText box

Allows a single line of text to be input of a size and number of characters specified.
HTML: <input type="text" size="25" maxlength="20" />

Open/close headingText editor

A simple application which allows users to enter, edit and save text, typically with basic formatting options.

Open/close headingThread

A collection of discussion board postings which have been added as responses to a message which began the thread. Moderators will frequently aim to ensure that only postings of direct relevance to the message will be added to the same thread, and encourage users to begin a new thread if their posting is on a different subject. This allows users to more easily reference the contents of a discussion.

Open/close headingTroll

Individual who deliberately posts provocative messages to a discussion board intending to incite a reaction from the readers of the message.

Open/close headingTrue flame

A type of flame as described by O'Sullivan and Flanigan (20041) where all parties regard the message as a deliberate attempt to be aggressive or rude.


Open/close headingURL

A URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is the address for a resource available online (usually a web page). URLs consist of a reference to the server computer which holds the resource along with a path to the file containing this resource on the computer. By typing the URL into a browser, a request is sent from a user's computer (client computer) to the server computer to deliver this resource.

Open/close headingUnit non-responders

Questionnaire respondents who do not participate in a survey. There are two possible variations: They may be 'technically hindered' or may 'purposefully withdraw after the welcome screen is displayed, but prior to viewing any questions'. (Bojniak et. al., 1991, p.12)

Open/close headingUsability testing

Checking that the website performs the function for which it was designed, with the minimum amount of user frustration, time and effort – usually involves observation in which participants are asked to verbalize their thoughts by 'thinking out loud', and analysis of responses.


Open/close headingValidation

The functionality which allows forms to be automatically checked before or at submission to ensure that any required questions have been answered and/or that data has been entered in a suitable format. This can be done using client-side and/or server-side scripting. Typically, validation routines will prevent submission where problems are found with the form and a message will be delivered to the user prompting them to check their answers and resubmit.


Open/close headingWeb-based questionnaire

A questionnaire is designed as a web-page and hosted on a web-site.

Open/close heading'Web-safe' colour palette

A set of 216 colours recommended for use on the internet as they are not subject to variation on different types of monitors and systems.

Open/close headingWYSIWYG

WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) software packages such as Macromedia Dreamweaver or Microsoft FrontPage are tools that allow web pages to be created and edited using an interface that displays the page as it will appear in a browser.



  © 2004-2010  All rights reserved    |    Maintained by ReStore    |    About this website    |    Disclaimer    |    Copyright    |    Citation policy    |    Contact us