Internet-based Data Collection: Just Do It Already!


Topic: Measurement, Statistics
Publication: Computers in Human Behavior
Article: From paper to pixels: A comparison of paper and computer formats in psychological assessment.
Author: M.J. Naus, L.M. Phillipp, M.Samsi
Featured by: Benjamin Granger

Although many organizations have jumped onto the internet-data collection bandwagon, several issues still need to be addressed. For example, are paper-pencil and internet-based tests of the same trait (e.g., personality questionnaire) or ability (e.g., cognitive ability test) really equivalent? Similarly, are there any reasons to believe that employees respond to internet-based tests differently than they would a paper-pencil test of the same trait or ability?

Naus, Philipp, and Samsi (2008) set out to investigate these questions using three commonly used  psychological scales (Beck Depression Inventory, Short Form Health Survey, and the Neo-Five Factor Inventory).

Although Naus et. al found that the paper-pencil and internet-based survey formats performed equivalently for the Beck Depression Inventory and the Short Form Health Survey, there were differences for Neo-Five Factor Inventory (a commonly used personality assessment tool). What’s going on here?

One possibility is that responses were more socially desirable for the paper-pencil format, since a researcher was present at the time. That is, in the presence of an authority figure (i.e.,  researcher) participants may have responded in order to appear more self-controlled and self-focused. This is likely much less of a concern when completing the same survey on a computer at home (in PJs!).

Overall, respondents perceived the internet-based format to be convenient, user-friendly, comfortable and secure (All great things!). So what can we conclude about these findings? Although internet-based data collection methods have some advantages over paper-pencil methods, there are some caveats to their use. In some cases, the tests may operate differently due to the particular format. Unfortunately, not much is known about how they might differ. However, Naus et al.’s findings suggest internet-based  methods receive good reactions from employees and can save an organization time and money!

Naus, M.J., Philipp, L.M., & Samsi, M. (2008). From paper to pixels: A comparison of paper and computer formats in psychological assessment. Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 1-7.