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Mick P. Couper photo

Picture This! Exploring Visual Effects in Web Surveys

Publication Abstract

Couper, Mick P., Roger Tourangeau, and K. Kenyon. 2004. "Picture This! Exploring Visual Effects in Web Surveys." Public Opinion Quarterly, 68(2): 255-266.

Among the potential advantages of conducting self-administered surveys over the Internet are the rich visual possibilities offered by the Web. These varied visual resources include an assortment of typefaces, colors, and other stylistic elements; in addition, the Web offers the opportunity to enrich the survey experience with images, sound, and video. Perhaps the most promising of these visual enhancements is the ability to deliver color photographs or other images to respondents. Such images could help clarify items that assess brand recognition, magazine readership, or other topics in which a picture can help define the subject of interest. The chance to extend survey measurement beyond the words of a question is one of the most exciting, yet least explored, aspects of Web surveys. It raises a host of related questions: What are the advantages and disadvantages of using images in a survey instrument? Do images convey more information than a researcher bargained for? Can well-chosen visual images clarify the meaning of the question for the respondent, or are images so intrinsically ambiguous that they generally confuse the meaning of the question (Mussio 1993, p. 325)? The authors of survey questions have long struggled to write clear survey questions-ones that are easy to understand and are understood by all respondents in the same way-and it remains to be seen whether the addition of images and other visual enhancements to survey questions will help achieve that goal or make it harder than ever to reach. This paper reports on some initial efforts to explore the role of images in the Web survey context.

DOI:10.1093/poq/nfh013 (Full Text)

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