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For companies, one of the major dangers of paid online surveys is that you are giving participants an incentive to lie and cheat in order to take more surveys [source: Selling to Kids]. People might lie on their demographic profile to qualify for more surveys. They might sign up with the same company under multiple e-mail addresses to maintain several different profiles. They might rush through multiple-choice surveys randomly checking answers in order to complete the survey in the least amount of time possible.
Focus groups are very different from pilot tests because people discuss the survey topic or respond to specific questions in a group setting, often face to face (though online focus groups are sometimes used). When conducting focus groups, the surveyor typically gathers a group of people and asks them questions, both as a group and individually. Focus group moderators may ask specific survey questions, but often focus group questions are less specific and allow participants to provide longer answers and discuss a topic with others. Focus groups can be particularly helpful in gathering information before developing a survey questionnaire to see what topics are salient to members of the population, how people understand a topic area and how people interpret questions (in particular, how framing a topic or question in different ways might affect responses). For these types of focus groups, the moderator typically asks broad questions to help elicit unedited reactions from the group members, and then may ask more specific follow-up questions.
While it might be hard to believe at first, American Consumer Opinion will pay you real, actual money to share your opinions and complete online surveys. Once you join their online opinion panel, you’ll be asked to offer opinions on new products you have tried, test out new advertising campaigns, and tell companies what you think of their marketing techniques and slogans.
An example of a wording difference that had a significant impact on responses comes from a January 2003 Pew Research Center survey. When people were asked whether they would “favor or oppose taking military action in Iraq to end Saddam Hussein’s rule,” 68% said they favored military action while 25% said they opposed military action. However, when asked whether they would “favor or oppose taking military action in Iraq to end Saddam Hussein’s rule even if it meant that U.S. forces might suffer thousands of casualties,” responses were dramatically different; only 43% said they favored military action, while 48% said they opposed it. The introduction of U.S. casualties altered the context of the question and influenced whether people favored or opposed military action in Iraq.
Like American Consumer Opinion, Harris Poll Online offers cash incentives to people who are willing to log in regularly and complete online surveys and questionnaires. Once you join, you’ll begin earning rewards for each survey you take. Once you earn enough reward “points”, you can turn them in for purchases made on websites like Amazon, iTunes, Home Depot and Walmart. Conversely, you can also turn in your points for movies, books, and home goods ordered straight from the Harris Poll website. Plus, you’ll be entered into a $10,000 sweepstakes each time you complete a survey.
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While surveys vary widely in how they are conducted and used, there are a number of components that are common across nearly all surveys. Many of these common features have been studied in extensive detail by survey methodologists, psychologists, statisticians, and many other fields of research. The general process of survey research is outlined in the figure below.