Webbased Methods

Ulf-Dietrich Reips

What can be gained from applying Web-based methods to psychological assessment? In the last decade it has become possible to collect data from participants who are tested via the Internet rather than in the laboratory. Although this type of assessment has inherent limitations stemming from lack of control and observation of conditions, it also has a number of advantages over laboratory research (Birnbaum, 2004; Krantz & Dalai, 2000; Reips, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2002c; Schmidt, 1997). Some of the main advantages are that (a) one can test large numbers of participants very quickly; (b) one can recruit large heterogeneous samples and people with rare characteristics; and (c) the method is more cost-effective in time, space, and labor in comparison with laboratory research.

This chapter comprises seven sections. In the first section, Web-Based Methods in Psychology, I briefly look at the short history of Web-based methods in psychological research, describe their characteristics, and present a systematic overview of different types of methods. The second section, Advantages of Web-Based Methods, illustrates that Web-based methods promise a great number of benefits to psychological assessment, several of which have been empirically supported or are confined to specific conditions. The third section, Common Concerns Regarding Internet-Based Studies, presents some typical concerns regarding Web-based research, along with findings and reasons that convincingly soften most concerns.

However, the theoretical and empirical work conducted by pioneers in research on Web-based methods has also identified some basic problems and some typical errors. The fourth section, Techniques, demonstrates several techniques to avoid, solve, or alleviate these issues. The fifth section, Three Web-Based Assessment Methods, explains several specific methods, including log file analysis, using the randomized response technique (RRT) on the Web, and game scenarios as covers for Web experiments. The sixth section, Using Web-Based Methods: An Example, gives the reader the opportunity to become active and experience Web-based methods by creating and conducting a Web-based experiment and, subsequently, a log file analysis in a step-by-step fashion. The example used is from Internet-based psychological research on framing effects. It shows how the use of Web-based tools can create a whole new type of research experience in psychology when Web-based methods of assessment are integrated with new communication and presentation modes. The concluding section looks at potential future trends and the continuing evolution of Web-based methods and their use in psychological assessment. The rapid development of Web technology and the spread of knowledge among psychologists regarding its characteristics creates the expectation that Web-based methods will inevitably impact the way psychological assessment is conducted in the future.

Thanks to Michael Birnbaum for his helpful comments.

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