Ethical Issues for Online Surveys
March 19, 2009
While conducting survey research, most academic and private sector organizations will adhere to the code of ethics and practices established by the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR). This code calls for honesty, respect,Â and integrity in dealing with respondents, clients, and the public.
In this code of ethics, respondents should be given the content, sponsorship, and purpose of the survey so that they may make an informed judgment about whether they wish to participate. Any assurances, such as confidentiality or anonymity, must also be kept by the researcher.
Additionally, researchers are called to disclose fully to those who sponsor surveys the limitations and shortcomings of the survey and to avoid use of methods that deliberately introduce bias into the results. A survey report should include information on who sponsored it, who conducted it, exact wording and sequencing of questions, description of the population and how a sample was selected, sample sizes and sampling tolerance, and the method place and dates of data collection.
This information is seldom available in published research reports or media summaries, but should be obtainable with a phone call or letter to the sponsor of the survey. Today, online survey software has made this process of gathering the ethical information extremely easy. With a good survey software program, one can provide the relevant information and adhere to the code of ethics and practices with ease.