Web-based questionnaires: the future in epidemiology?
ABSTRACT The traditional epidemiologic modes of data collection, including paper-and-pencil questionnaires and interviews, have several limitations, such as decreasing response rates over the last decades and high costs in large study populations. The use of Web-based questionnaires may be an attractive alternative but is still scarce in epidemiologic research because of major concerns about selective nonresponse and reliability of the data obtained. The authors discuss advantages and disadvantages of Web-based questionnaires and current developments in this area. In addition, they focus on some practical issues and safety concerns involved in the application of Web-based questionnaires in epidemiologic research. They conclude that many problems related to the use of Web-based questionnaires have been solved or will most likely be solved in the near future and that this mode of data collection offers serious benefits. However, questionnaire design issues may have a major impact on response and completion rates and on reliability of the data. Theoretically, Web-based questionnaires could be considered an alternative or complementary mode in the range of epidemiologic methods of data collection. Practice and comparisons with the traditional survey techniques should reveal whether they can fulfill their expectations.