How to Conduct an Online Research


This writing discusses how to conduct an online research, especially how to make and put questionnaire in Internet with an example of reading comprehension assessment, how to draw sample and examine strength and weaknesses of doing a research in Internet.


A.      Introduction

Internet is one the fastest means of information exchange so far. In relation to the research world, Internet has become a tool to search information or data located in various servers around the world which can be accessed and read quickly, easily and freely by netters. In other words, Internet is precious source of secondary data as much as possible.

Due to the invention of World Wide Web (WWW) technology in 1990s, Internet can display pages which do not contain texts only, but also images, graphics, animation and even sound. According to the research, almost 90% students at the United States used Internet as a means to find information related to their respective study. There are 7 people learning how to enter the virtual world every second in the world.

Such above conditions have made the Internet as a contact means among human being; accordingly, Interent has trigerred the emergence of virtual community that conduct transaction and communication known as netizen (Internet Citizen). From the research perspective, Internet donates much benefit, especially in finding secondary data, eliminating the roles of  surveyors, reducing cost, minimizing physical travelling, saving time, eliminating geographic restriction and obtaining prospective respondents easily.


B.      Types of Research that Can be Conducted in Internet

So far both research using quantitative and qualitative approaches can be done in Internet. The writer only focuses on the ways to conduct survey in Internet using reading  comprehension  capability material test as an example to make a questionnaire form. In this writing, the discussion will cover three main things: 1) steps to conduct survey, 2) techniques to collect data, 3) advantages and disadvantages conducting research in Internet.



C.      Steps to Conduct Survey

Steps to conduct survey are as follows:

1.       Formulate the problem

2.       Decide the language that will be used to make the forms

3.       Make the questionairre forms

4.       Select the prospective respondents

5.       Decide the methods to deliver questionnairre to the respondents

6.       Decide the location of the respondents’ answers

7.       Analyse the available data

8.       Display the ongoing research result (progress report)

9.       Disseminate the final research result

  1. Formulate the problem and the goal of the research: the ways to formulate a problem and goal of the research refer to applicable provisions of the research in general..
  2. Decide the Programing Language to Make the forms: To make a questionnaire needs a knowledge of the Internet programming language. In general people use HTML (Hypertext Mark Up Language). This HTML is the easiest language that can be used to make pages of web sites in WWW and is easily understood by people, though the concerned people have not possessed any knowledge of the computer’s programming langauges. The structure of the language is simple, people need only the logics to comprehend syntax meanings of the commands that arrange the Internet browser to set up the display we want. The basic structure is as follows:

<HTML> // the opening command

<HEAD></HEAD> // additional command, such as JavaScript  used

to be placed among the <HEAD></HEAD>command.

<TITLE></TITLE>  // the title of the page

<BODY>// the first command is preceded by <Body>

The content of the program // all the programs should be placed between the

<body> </body> command


</HTML> // the closing command

  1. Making Questionaire:
    1. Answer Model : Filling the blank spaces

This model enables respondents to answer the questions by filling the blank spaces on the monitor screen. The commands are as follows:

What is the main idea of the passage? <br>

The main idea of the passage is :

 <input type=”text” name=”idea” size=40>

    1. Answer Model: Select one right answer

This model enables respondents to answer the questions by selecting one right answer only by clicking the radio buttons available on the monitor screen. The commands are as follows:

What is the synonym of the “brave”? <br>

<input type=”radio” name=”choice” value=1>afraid<br>

<input type=”radio” name=”choice” value=2>fearful<br>

<input type=”radio” name=”choice” value=3>courageous<br>

<input type=”radio” name=” choice” value=4> reckless<br>

<input type=”radio” name=” choice” value=5>sharp


Those above model can be written also using the <select> </select> commands as follows:

What is the synonym of the “brave”?

<select name="choice">

<option value=1> afraid </option>

<option value=2> fearful </option>

<option value=3> courageous </option>

<option value=4> reckless</option>

<option value=5> sharp </option>



    1. Answer Model: Selecting more than one right answers

This model enables respondents to answer the questions by selecting more than one right answers by ticking the checkbox buttons available on the monitor screen. The commands are as follows:

What is the antonym of  “rich”?<br>

<input type=”checkbox” name=”check1”>poor<br>

<input type=”checkbox” name=”check2”>valiant<br>

<input type=”checkbox” name=”check3”>good<br>

<input type=”checkbox” name=”check4”>fair<br>

<input type=”checkbox” name=”check5”>free


    1. Answer Model: Unstructured answer

This model enables respondents to answer the questions freely using the more wider space on the monitor screen. The commands are as follows:

Rewrite the passage above using your own words, please! <br>

<textarea cols=15 rows=10></textarea>

    1. Commands to send the questionairre from the respondent’s computer to the server:

The following commands will enable the respondents’ answers to be sent to server’s location where the data will  be processed :

<form method=”post” action=””> or

                        <form method=”post” action=””>

                        We should also make the buttons that facilitate the respondents to send their answers, the commands are as follows:

                        <input type=”submit” value=”Send the form”>

                        <input type=”reset” value=”Cancel”>

    1. Program Explanation:

o  Program1

o  <input type=”text”>: this command is used to make a limted box space  on the monitor screen where respondents can write their answers through their computers.

o  <name=” idea”>: to enable the answers from the respondents saved into a  variabel given a name as “idea”

o  size=30: to restrict the number of characters entered by the  respondents as many as 30 letters

o  <br>: it functions as line spacing, one <br> functions as one line spacing



o  Program 2

o  <input type=”radio”>: to make a radio (small circle) that will be used by the respondents to enter their answers by clicking the inside part of the circle.

o  Value=1 to give a  value 1 when the respondents choose option 1

o  Program 3

o  <input type=”checkbox”>: to make  check boxes that will be used by respondents  to enter their answers by clicking the inside of the box.

o  Program 4

o  <textarea> </textarea>: to make a wider space on  monitor screen whose width is 15 pixel (cols=15) and whose length is 10 pixel (rows=10) where the respondents can write their answers  

o  Form Delivery Commands:

o  <form>: a command to make a form

o  method: describe how the answers of respondents will be sent to the server

o  post= method used

o  action= a command to send the form into the  destination. The first method is to send the data to the server. The command will be: “action=” the answers will be sent to the server location of The second method is to send the data via email; the command will be: Accordingly the answers will sent to the email

    1. Complete Program:


<head> </head>



      <h1 align=”center”>QUESTIONAIRE<h1>


      <form method=”post” action=””>


<h2 align=”center”> HOW THE WEB PAGES WORK </h2>


<p>The World Wide Web (WWW)  is the fastest growing, and in many ways, the most exciting and intriguing part of the Internet. When people refer to “surfing the net”, more often they are talking about using the WWW. </p>

<p>As it name implies, the WWW is a globally connected network. The Web contains many things, but what makes it so fascinating to so many are the Web “pages” that incorporate text, graphics, sound, animation, and other multimedia elements. In essence, each page is an interactive multimedia publication that can include videos and music as well as graphics and text. </p>

<p>Pages are connected to one another using “hypertext” that allows you to move from any page to any other page, and to graphics, binary files, multimedia files, as well as Internet resources. To jump from one page to another, click on the hypertext. </p>

<p>The web operates on a client/server model. You run the Web client browser software, such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft’s Internet Explorer on your computer. That client contacts  a Web server and requests information or resources. The Web server locates and then sends the information to the Web browser, which displays the result.</p>

Example of question 1 <br>

What is the main idea of the passage: <input type=”text” name=”idea” size=60><br>

Example of question 2 <br>

<p>The Web pages incorporate text, graphics, sound and animation

makes the Internet more</p>

<input type=”radio” name=”pilih” value=1>powerful<br>

<input type=”radio” name=”pilih” value=2>chalenging<br>

<input type=”radio” name=”pilih” value=3>fascinating<br>

<input type=”radio” name=”pilih” value=4>expensive<br>

<input type=”radio” name=”pilih” value=5>interactive<br>

Example of  Question 3<br>

What characterises World Wide Web?

<input type=”checkbox” name=”cek1”>computer <br>

<input type=”checkbox” name=”cek2”>multimedia<br>

<input type=”checkbox” name=”cek3”>a part of Internet<br>

<input type=”checkbox” name=”cek4”>globally connected<br>

<input type=”checkbox” name=”cek5”>web site<br>

Example of question 4 <br>

<p>Rewrite the reading passage using your own word, use the space below to write your sentences</p>

<textarea cols=15 rows=10></textarea>

<input type=”submit” value=”Send“>

                        <input type=”reset” value=”Clear”>





Those who have experienced with HTML and are familiar with PHP language may use the following form:

Program 1: form_tanya.html







<form method="POST" action="mail_en.php3">

  <table width="600">


      <td width="35"></td>

      <td width="565"><small><font face="Verdana">Question</font></small><p>&nbsp;</td>



      <td width="35"></td>

      <td width="565">

        <font face="Verdana"><small>Question 1 :</small><br>

        <small><input type="text" name="champ1" size="20"></small></font>


        <p><font face="Verdana"><small>Question 2 :</small><br>

        <small><input  type="text" name="champ2" size="20"></small></font></p>


        <p><font face="Verdana"><small>Question 3 :</small><br>

        <small><input  type="text" name="champ3" size="20"></small></font></p>


        <p><font face="Verdana"><small>Question 4 :</small><br>

        <small><input type="text" name="champ4" size="20"></small></font></p>


        <p><font face="Verdana"><small>Question 5 :</small><br>

        <small><select name="champ5" size="1">

         <option selected value="0">Choose</option>

         <option value="Reponse5_1">1</option>

         <option value="Reponse5_2">2</option>

         <option value="Reponse5_3">3</option>

         <option value="Reponse5_4">4</option>

         <option value="Reponse5_5">5</option>



      <p><font face="Verdana"><small>Question 6 :</small><br>

      <small><textarea rows="4" name="champ6" cols="40"></textarea></small></font></p>


      <p><small><font face="Verdana">Question 7 :</font></small></p>

      <p><input type="radio" value="Reponse7_1" name="champ7">

      <font face="verdana"><small> Option 1 </small></font>

      <input type="radio" name="champ7" value="Reponse7_2">

      <font face="verdana"><small> Option 2</small></font></p>


      <p><font face="Verdana"><small>Question 8 :</small></font></p>

      <table border="0" width="100%" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="4">


          <td width="7%"><input type="hidden" name="champ8[]" value="aucune">

            <input type="checkbox" name="champ8[]" value="item_1"></td>

          <td width="93%"><font face="Verdana"><small>Item 1</small></font></td>



          <td width="7%"><input type="checkbox" name="champ8[]" value="item_2"></td>

          <td width="93%"><small><font face="Verdana">Item 2</font></small></td>



          <td width="7%"><input type="checkbox" name="champ8[]" value="item_3"></font></td>

          <td width="93%"><small><font face="Verdana">Item 3</font></small></td>







  <p><small><font face="Verdana"><input type="submit" value="Send" name="envoyer"> <input

  type="reset" value="Clear" name="recommencer"></font></small> <br>







Program 2: mail_en.php3





$MailTo = ""; //recipient of the form results

$MailSubject = "Subject of the message"; //text in the Subject field of the mail

$MailHeader = "From:"; //text in the From field of the mail


$Envoi = 1;   //give value 1 to the variable $Envoi

if ($champ1 == ""){ //name of field 1

     echo("<font face=verdana size=2>You forget to fill in field 1.</font><br>"); //message to be displayed if the field is left empty

     $Envoi = 0;  //if field 1 is empty, variable $Envoi takes value 0


else {

     $MailBody = "Question 1 : $champ1\n"; //if field 1 has been completed, value is inserted in variable MailBody


if ($champ2 == ""){

     echo("<font face=verdana size=2>You forget to fill in field 2.</font><br>");

     $Envoi = 0;


else {

     $MailBody .= "Question 2 : $champ2\n";


if ($champ3 == ""){

     echo("<font face=verdana size=2>You forget to fill in field 3</font><br>");

     $Envoi = 0;


else {

     $MailBody .= "Question 3 : $champ3\n";


if ($champ4 == ""){

     echo("<font face=verdana size=2>You forget to fill in field 4</font><br>");

     $Envoi = 0;


else {

     $MailBody .= "Question 4 : $champ4\n";


if ($champ5 == "0"){

     echo("<font face=verdana size=2>You forget to fill in Field 5</font><br>");

     $Envoi = 0;


else {

     $MailBody .= "Question 5 : $champ5\n";


if ($champ6 == ""){

     echo("<font face=verdana size=2>You forget to fill in field 6.</font><br>");

     $Envoi = 0;


else {

     $MailBody .= "Question 6 : $champ6\n";


if ($champ7 == ""){

     echo("<font face=verdana size=2>You forget to fill in field 7.</font><br>");

     $Envoi = 0;


else {

     $MailBody .= "Question 7 : $champ7\n";


//Routine for checkboxes

     $MailBody .="Question 8 : ";

$items = 3;  //initiate possible # of items

for ($i = 1; $i <= $items; $i++) {  //loop on # of items

     $MailBody .= "$champ8[$i], ";  //put results in variable MailBody


//Routine to send message

if ($Envoi == 1) {  //Check that variable $Envoi has value 1

mail($MailTo, $MailSubject, $MailBody, $MailHeader);  //message send

echo("<p><font face=verdana size=2>Your message has been sent.<br>Thankyou</font>"); //Confirmation message.






  1. Selecting prospective respondents

Basically, the rules of sampling technique in  online research is the same with the actual on site research. The differences lie on the following matters: ways to select the sample and detemine the sample’s sources. Based on the writer’s observation, online researchers divide the sample into three categories: 1) unrestricted sample, 2) screened sample and 3) recruited sample

1)       Unrestricted Sample: If the researcher uses this technique, whoever visits the Internet (netter) may fill the available questionnaire. This technique is alse named as “self-selected respondent”,  because some one may select himself to participate in the research as a respondent freely. This may occur, because he is interested in the ongoing research. One of the weaknesses of this technique is that the respondent cannot represent  the  population desired by the researcher.

2)       Screened sample: This technique is the modification of the first one by adding several requirements whose function is to restrict the respondents that meet the researcher’s desire. One of them is a demographic factor, such as age, education, gender, income and so forth; criteria that meet the product related, such as purchase behaviour, job responsibility, current product consumption; and other factors related to the experiences in using Internet as well, such as, the length of time usng Internet evary day, the commencement of getting in touch with the  Internet, ownership of computers  connected to the Internet. Due to the mentioned additional restrictions, this technique is better than the first one.

3)       Recruited sample: This third technique selects certain population as the target to become the sample (respondents). The criteria of recruitment have been set up in advance before the researcher selects the prospective respondents. The recruitment may be via email, telephone or person in person.  After  the sample has been gathered, the researcher conducts evaluation using  certain pre- determined qualification. The respondents that meet the criteria will be notified by email to access a certain website where the the questionnaire that will be filled is placed.   This technique is the most ideal since the representative level is high.



  1. Delivering questionnaires to the respondents

The way of delivering the  questionnaire to the respondents depends on the way the researcher places the quetsionaire in the World Wide Web. The first way is to place the quetsionaire on the web site using a certain address, for example If the researcher uses this technique, he or she then will send emails to all selected respondents containing an address of web site and password where the concerned respondents can access the web meant and fill the quetsionnaire.

The second technique is to include the  questionaire within the email sent to the respondents and to request them to fill the questionnaire meant. When the respondents have finished to answer all the questions, they can submit the questionnaire by pressing the  reply button at the  email menu. 

  1. Location and the Technique to Save  Respondents’ Answer Data

HTML programs above  can only receive the answers and then send them to the desired computer location where all the data will be processed or technically we call it server. In order that the answers can be processed in the destined server location, we need to install CGI programs (Common Gate Interface). The CGI program is a script made using C or Pascal languages placed in the server. Since this kind of script contains a high level of computer programming languages, the current writer suggests to use the available programs that can be copied freely from the following address: under the topics of form processors. If you have difficulties to find it, you can access the writer’s personal web site to  get the script sources freely. The script can be found in, under “script populer” menu, then find in PHP  language.

Some of the functions of the CGI  script are:

o        Saving the respondents’s answers

o        Validating  the respondents’s answers

o        Processing the respondents’s answers, such as 1)only receiving the completed questionnaire and  rejecting incomplete one; 2)reminding respondents when they enter the wrong answers, for example the answers should have been numeric characaters, but they enter string characters; 3) rejecting more than one submission, when the respondents by accident or on purpose press the submit button several times. CGI script can process the first submission only;

o        Checking  the questionnaire filled and sent back to  the destined server originating from the authorised server where the questionnaire comes from.

All the answer data which have been in the server then are transferred into our  drive c where they are ready any time we want to use.

  1. Data Analysis

Preliminary data analysis can be conducted in Internet directly. Using CGI script, the collected data can be processed in the form of tabulation and accompanied by its charts. The actual analysis can be done in accordance with the goal of the research. We can use computerised statistical analytical technique, such as using SPSS, SAS or other related programs.

  1. Displaying progress report

One of the prominent advantages of conducting online research in Internet is that the researcher can display the progress report of the research automatically. The temporary result can be displayed in the form of tabulation and its charts as well as some descriptive analysis. Seeing the temporary result, all respondents will understand what progress the researcher has done and they will feel proud with their contribution in the research.

  1. Dissemination  of the final research result

The  most effective way to publish the research result is to put it into the popular site, such as  for an international directory and  an Indonesian popular directory.

D.      Strength and Weaknesses

1.       Strength

                                                   i.      Number of Population: Netters are getting increased more and more from day to day, especially  World Wide Web surfing; therefore the  Internet has become a precious respondent source now. Internet’s population is not limited by  geographic factors. Currently demographic information of the netters have been already available and can be accessed from any place.

                                                 ii.      Time and Cost Saving: People have acknowledged that Internet has changed the way to conduct research. Now we can eliminate some of researchers’ assistant roles, such as surveyors and data collectors  as well as decrease the cost of research implementation, especially travelling cost. If it done manually, data collection needs surveyors and data collectors. Using good CGI script can eliminate the need of personnel to conduct tabulation and and data entry.

                                                iii.      Motivation: Dynamic and interactive survey can increase the respondents’ motivation. This can be done by giving feedback directly to the respondents in order to see temporary result of the ongoing research.

                                                iv.      Easily Found Hardware Requirements: Every researcher can conduct research in Internet by only connecting his /her computer to the Internet so the researcher concenrned can have access to the  World Wide Web’s server.

                                                  v.      Esaily Made Software Requirements: Possessing knowledge of how to use a simple HTML language makes the researcher can create the form in which the questionnaire will be placed. Beside that, the availability of  popular  browsers, such as Internet Explorer, Netscape and Operah which  can be operated easily will assist the researcher to cunduct the online research. CGI script are available in World Wide Web and can be downloaded freely.

2.       Weaknesses:

                                                   i.      Incomplete answers: respondents may sent incomplete answers due to several reasons, some of them are they only complete questions that interest them only or the connection to the Internet suddenly terminates. This weakness can be overcome by using the CGI script whose function is to reject the incomplete answers.

                                                 ii.      Answers that Cannot be Processed: respondents may send responses that cannot be processed, for example numeric charaters should be given instead of string characters. This weakness can be surpassed  by using CGI script whose functions can remind respondents to fill in the questionnaire rightly.

                                                iii.      Repeated Answers: respondents having no experiences in the Internet’s world may make a mistake to send the filled form more than one by accident. They may not feel sure with the accuracy of the computer, therefore they sometimes click the “send” button more than once times. This weakness can be overcome by using the CGI script which only processes the first questionnaire sent to the server.

                                                iv.      Security and Data Integrity: Some of prone weaknesses in Internet are that there is no way  to prevent people to access our web site containing the questionnaire concerned, to answer the questions and send it back to the destined server. Perhaps the current efficient technique to reduce the risk is to install a reliable password so that only authorised respondents can access the questionnaire. People also can send the  data into our server containing the respondents’ answer data; accordingly, our server should be equipped with a program that can reject forms’ arrival which does not originate from the authorised server. Many people can view the HTML sources of the the  questionnaire we made. Potential danger emerging from this is that they can use the same variables and modify the questions aimed at confusing our data then the questionnaire will be sent back to our server. Such danger can be overcome by using CGI script that can identify the questionnaire wheter it comes from the authorised server or unauthirsed one.

                                                  v.      Validity: there is tendency for the Internet users (netters) not to give true demographic data when they make emails or other related matters, this results in the lack of generalization of the research output. That is why, research in Internet should be targeted to the already specifically defined population.

                                                vi.      Various Browsers Display Web Sites Differently : Various browsers are not made to produce same display of our we site. How neat we made our web site seen from our computer  using a certain browser  does not guarantee that other people will see the same display in their computers and browsers. This problem cannot be overcome so far. One of the present writer startegies is to use table command from HTML  in managing the screen size, for example make 80% of the table’s width, install certin display within the column or row of the table and  make top alignment of the first display under the column of table (valign=”top”).

E.      Conclusion

Basically counducting research in Internet and research on site has the same strategy, procedure and its steps. The main differences are sampling technique, questionnaire delivery, and  data collection. In on site research, the questionnaire is delivered from person to person by the surveyors; while  in online research, the questionnaire is delivered using emails and / or web sites. Sampling frame of the on site research usually uses telephone books or other lists of demographic data; while in online research the  sampling frame uses email addresses or other online database. Data collection in the first research is that the surveyor  comes to the respondent, and then after the questionnaire has been filled he takes it back again. As in the second research the  respondent fills the  questionnaire at the computer screen monitor, ans after the respondent has finished completing the questions he or she can submit the form by pressing the “send” button at the screen.

The outstanding advantage to conduct the online research lies on the high speed of data collection and its automatic tabulation process Because several jobs have been taken by the machine, the researcher saves money and time.  Nevertheless, the researcher should be very careful, especially concerning with the data validity and  server security. When the security is not good, the data can be destroyed by hackers who wander around in the virtual world.



Batagelj , Zenel and Vasja Vehovar. 1998. Technical and Methdodological Issues  in WWW Surveys.

Kenyon, Paul. 1997. How to Put Questionnaires on the Internet. Department

 of Psychology, University of Plymouth, UK

Schmidt, W. C 1997. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments & Computers, 29(2), 274-279. World-Wide Web Survey Research: Benefits, Potential Problems, and Solutions. Department of Psychology Dalhousie University

Sarwono, Jonathan. 2003. Metodologi Penelitian Menggunakan Pendekatan

Kuantitatif. Bandung: LPPM Universitas Komputer Indonesia. (


Sarwono, Jonathan. 2002.Bahasa HTML dan PHP.



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