Quick and Dirty Covid-19 Online Surveys: Why?

Everyone seems to be an epidemiologist these days. I have long lost count on the surveys that land in my inbox.  It’s clear that the internet has made it very cheap to field surveys, especially surveys where questions of sampling  don’t seem to be relevant to those fielding the surveys. It’s also clear that tools like SurveyMonkey and Qualtrics make it easy to field surveys quickly. But that’s no excuse for some of the surveys I’ve seen:

  • surveys with no apparent flow between questions
  • surveys where the e-mail makes it clear that they are desperate to get any answers
  • surveys with incomplete flow logic (see example below)
  • surveys that ask hardly anything about the respondent (like age, sex, education, location)
  • surveys that throw in about any instrument that could be vaguely related to how people respond to Covid-19 (with no apparent focus; which is bound to find ‘interesting’ and statistically ‘significant’ results)
  • double negatives in questions
  • two questions in one

For example, how should I answer this required question at the bottom here? What if I assume corruption is evenly spread across all sectors, or not present at all?

I understand that we want to get numbers on the various ways Covid-19 affected us, but with surveys like these we’re not going to learn anything because they do not allow meaningful inferences. In that case, it’s sometimes better not to run a survey then pretending to have data.

C4P: Workshop on Survey Experiments in Migration and Integration Research

Flavia Fossati and I are organizing an international workshop on “Survey Experiments in Migration and Integration Research” and would like to cordially invite you to contribute a paper to this event, which will be hosted at the University of Lausanne (IDHEAP) on June 4-5th 2020.

This is the third meeting of a series of international workshops previously held in Switzerland at the Universities of Lausanne and Berne that aim at gathering experts on the topic and to have in-depth discussions on their work in progress.

In this edition of the Survey Experiment in Migration and Integration Research, we will have a few different panels that focus on the survey experiment methodology and others that focus more on the immigration and integration research that is carried out by means of such experimental methods.

The event will be accompanied by two keynote speeches, one by Prof. Katrin Auspurg (University of Munich) and Prof. Donald Green (Columbia University).

Please apply by following this link: http://idheap.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8B2srd4kq2HIyEd

Deadline February 15th 2020.

More Support and Templates in SciFlow

SciFlow is an online editor for academics. They have recently updated and expanded the documentation, so should you ever get stuck, here’s how to. That said, the interface is pretty intuitive, so I’m not sure you’ll ever need to navigate to the support pages for basic editing.

There are some useful hints, though, like using zbib (Zotero) with Sciflow (instructions here). This gets pretty close to Authorea’s citation feature, and is also useful for collaborative texts (and doesn’t suffer from the slowness of direct Zotero/Mendeley connections if you have a large database of references).

The SciFlow team have also recently updated the Templates feature:

There are many journal styles to choose from. It’s not quite (yet) like typeset.io, but the social sciences are not well covered by typeset anyway. SciFlow offers some useful templates, but in most cases, it’s necessary to do some finishing before submitting to a journal. On the other hand, there’s a template for minutes — that’s useful for anyone working in a team, and who isn’t?

In most cases the generic templates will do, including the SciFlow templates which support many common citation styles.

Grammar Check in SciFlow

I have mentioned SciFlow, an exciting platform for collaborative academic writing. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a grammar checker? Head over to LanguageTool and install the bowser add-on of choice. Once you’ve done that, you can check any text in SciFlow (or anywhere on the web where you type):

Here we have a red wiggly line from the browser, indicating a typo. How about potential grammar problems? Click on that small blue circle at the end, and let LanguageTool do its magic.

(Here I used part of the demo text from LanguageTool, so obviously they have smuggled in many issues.) One thing I found less convenient is that when I simply click on the blue circle, the entire document is checked. This tends to bring up many potential issues, especially since author names are typically not in the dictionary. As a result, I find it difficult to be sure which section of the document an error refers to. The workaround is to select a paragraph (or section) a time, and then click that blue circle. Now we only have the selected text checked.

If you are uncomfortable having your text sent over the web (see their privacy rules here), you can install LanguageTool locally, and have the browser add-on use that one instead.

Mousetracking in Qualtrics

Qualtrics is a widely used web service for surveys. It’s got plenty of useful features, one of which is the ability to include JavaScript. Jackson Walters has very kindly put up full instructions of how this can be used to track the respondents’ mouse in a particular question, following up a post on Stack Overflow. If you ever looked for mouse tracking in a self-administered web survey, look no further (assuming that you or your institute has a subscription with Qualtrics, of course).