Thursday, April 17, 2008

Web-based Methods in Terrorism and Disaster Research

Schlenger, W.E. & Silver, R.C. (April 2006). Web-based Methods in Terrorism and Disaster Research. Journal of Traumatic Stress, Vol. 26, No. 2, 185-193.

Gaining access to a traumatized population in the aftermath of a disaster can be challenging. The need for rapid response and appropriate probability sampling along with the observational nature of the studies (i.e. no random assignment) and post-only design can be problematic for the generalizability of the results. Recently, web-based methods have helped to address some of these age-old issues. (1) The literature indicates that people respond more honestly to sensitive questions in self-report than in interview-based assessments. (2) The use of e-mail also assists greatly with retention rates in longitudinal studies. (3) Respondents can answer surveys within the privacy of their home at a time that is convenient to them. (4) Question delivery can be standardized. (5) Time-consuming and error-prone steps of data coding and entry are eliminated. (6) And most importantly, recent companies such as Knowledge Networks Inc. have recruited nationally representative probability samples for just such uses. Panels can even be created in advance of disasters, enabling premeasure to be linked to postevent responses. However, these new technologies are not without their issues, e.g. populations may suffer infrastructure disruptions due to disaster that render data collection impossible such as in Hurricane Katrina.

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