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Exploring online research methods - Incorporating TRI-ORM


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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 or 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 headingAnswering drop-outs

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


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 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 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-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 headingComplete responders

Those responders who view and answer all questions in a questionnaire (Bojniak et al. 1991, 12).

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 headingDrop-down list box / select box

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 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, Select box / drop down list box, Password box, Radio buttons, Text area, Text box.


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 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 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 headingItem nonresponders

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

Open/close headingItem nonresponding Drop-outs

Those 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, 12).


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" size="4"> <option>Option 1</option> <option>Option 2</option> <option>Option 3</option> <option>Option 4</option> </select>

Open/close headingLurkers

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

Open/close headingLurking drop-outs

Those 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, 12).


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 headingNon-probabilistic sampling

A sub-set of users are selected from the sampling 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 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 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 headingProbabilistic sampling

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



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 headingSampling frame

The sampling frame is used to identify and locate a suitable respondent (e.g. mailing lists and email directories).

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 headingSelect box / Drop-down list box

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 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 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 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 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 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

Those 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, 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.



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