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Use of Internet panels to conduct surveys.


The use of Internet panels to collect survey data is increasing because it is cost-effective, enables access to large and diverse samples quickly, takes less time than traditional methods to obtain data for analysis, and the standardization of the data collection process makes studies easy to replicate. A variety of probability-based panels have been created, including Telepanel/CentERpanel, Knowledge Networks (now GFK KnowledgePanel), the American Life Panel, the Longitudinal Internet Studies for the Social Sciences panel, and the Understanding America Study panel. Despite the advantage of having a known denominator (sampling frame), the probability-based Internet panels often have low recruitment participation rates, and some have argued that there is little practical difference between opting out of a probability sample and opting into a nonprobability (convenience) Internet panel. This article provides an overview of both probability-based and convenience panels, discussing potential benefits and cautions for each method, and summarizing the approaches used to weight panel respondents in order to better represent the underlying population. Challenges of using Internet panel data are discussed, including false answers, careless responses, giving the same answer repeatedly, getting multiple surveys from the same respondent, and panelists being members of multiple panels. More is to be learned about Internet panels generally and about Web-based data collection, as well as how to evaluate data collected using mobile devices and social-media platforms.

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