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Advances in Nursing Science:
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Measurement Issues Related to Data Collection on the World Wide Web

Strickland, Ora L. RN, PhD, FAAN; Moloney, Margaret F. RN, PhD, ANP; Dietrich, Alexa S.; Myerburg, Stuart JD; Cotsonis, George A. MA; Johnson, Robert V.

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Abstract

As the World Wide Web has become more prominent as a mode of communication, it has opened up new possibilities for research data collection. This article identifies measurement issues that occur with Internet data collection that are relevant to qualitative and quantitative research approaches as they occurred in a triangulated Internet study of perimenopausal women with migraine headaches. Issues associated with quantitative data collection over the Internet include (a) selecting and designing Internet data collection protocols that adequately address study aims while also taking advantage of the Internet, (b) ensuring the reliability and validity of Internet data collected, (c) adapting quantitative paper-and-pencil data collection protocols for the Internet, (d) making Internet data collection practical for respondents and researchers, and (e) ensuring the quality of quantitative data collected. Qualitative data collection over the Internet needs to remain true to the philosophical stance of the qualitative approach selected. Researcher expertise in qualitative data collection must be combined with expertise in computer technology and information services if data are to be of ultimate quality. The advantages and limitations of collecting qualitative data in real time or at a later time are explored, as well as approaches to enhance qualitative data collection over the Internet. It was concluded that like any research approach or method, Internet data collection requires considerable creativity, expertise, and planning to take advantage of the technology for the collection of reliable and valid research data.

THE ESTABLISHMENT of the Internet, and specifically the World Wide Web, as a common mode of communication during the past 2 decades has greatly enhanced interaction among individuals and groups in all areas of life. Although the business community readily recognized and integrated Internet communication into its daily mode of operating, the nursing and research communities have been more cautious in their use of this communication tool in their activities. The major use of the Internet in nursing has been as a resource locator or for data collection with demographic surveys. 1 While researchers have found the Internet to be quite useful for gaining access to information by searching the World Wide Web, they have been more reluctant to use it to conduct one of its core activities—collection of research data from respondents. Undoubtedly, Internet data collection can have an important role in research. Data collected over the Internet are likely to be less affected by social desirability and inhibition than that collected via paper-and-pencil methods. 2 Although the World Wide Web can offer researchers global access, fast interaction with subjects, and automation, 3 the facility and adeptness with which data are collected will depend upon the type of data collected (ie, qualitative vs quantitative), the computer skills of the respondent, and the computer hardware and software available.

The primary goal of measurement of any phenomenon is that the data collected are consistent, accurate, and as precise as possible. It is crucial to adequately address these goals no matter whether qualitative or quantitative data are obtained. However, when data are collected via the Internet these aims can be uniquely addressed and challenged regardless of the type of data obtained. This article will address measurement issues related to both qualitative and quantitative research approaches, as they occurred in a triangulated Internet study of perimenopausal women with migraine headaches.

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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