Pros and cons of an anonymous surveys

Pros of anonymous surveys include,

They provide honest feedback: When a survey is anonymous, the respondents would naturally be more comfortable to be discussing their problems. This would result in gaining their genuine insight about their experience.

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There is no fear of embarrassment: The nature of anonymous surveys allows respondents to feel free in answering personal questions with honest answers, negating any embarrassment that they may otherwise have felt.

They have better response rates: Anonymous surveys tend to serve better response rates than by asking, directly.

They provide identity protection: People often dropout from surveys where they are asked for their personal information. Anonymous surveys provide protection of the respondent’s identities and thus, have a low drop-out rate.

Cons of an anonymous surveys include,

They are harder to follow-up: If the experimenter requires further action or information on the responses received in an anonymous survey, an anonymity makes it difficult to do so.

They are less specific: With an anonymous survey one may not be able to clarify the complaint of the participant and therefore, one can’t be certain regarding the bigger picture.

Possibility of not getting true answers: If the participant fears embarrassment for their responses on a non-anonymous survey, they might not give their most open and honest response in other surveys. This could mean that their decisions made from the feedback, does not correlate to what is really the scenario.

Factors leading to an anonymous survey
Consent comes first: When someone is going online to give their answers for some certain questions for a survey, at first there should be an option saying “Are you willing to proceed for the survey?” with two options “Yes” and “No”. If the participant checks the “Yes”, then only he or she can proceed further.

Protecting the respondent’s identity: One must avoid collecting a respondent’s personal information like their names, phone numbers, email IDs, etc. A researcher should also avoid the use of indicators that could automatically lead to others being able to track a respondent’s location or their personal information. This can be stated as highly unethical unless the respondents themselves give the permission to do so.

Demographic questions should be asked in a proper manner: Asking a respondent, how old they are, their monthly income, etc. should be avoided by the surveyor. Rather the surveyor may frame the questions to be, ‘What age group do you fall under?’ and ‘How much is your monthly expenditure?’, instead. This will help a surveyor in finding demographic information about respondents without questioning the ethics behind the data collection. It is an easier way for the respondent to be providing relevant information about themselves, as well.

Survey response accessibility: The experimenter should give only a limited amount of access to the responses gathered from the anonymous survey, and make it accessible by only a few people who are related directly to the work. It will ensure that no third party can get their hands on important data gathered from the respondents.

Security: The researcher must ensure secure storage of the surveyed data and hacking should be prevented by providing some extra security to online forms. In case of third-party forms, the researcher must ensure that the survey is suitably certified, in order to ensure that the responses are recorded via an encrypted connection.

Honesty with the respondent: The surveyor should build trust by being transparent and honest while creating an anonymous survey. This will encourage the participants to give honest feedback about their experience or opinion.

Opt-out option: There must be a provision for the respondents, as an option which allows them to opt-out of responding to the questions in a survey.

An innovative way to make surveys anonymous (randomized response technique)
To reduce potential bias (or error) due to non-responsiveness, the scientist, Warner proposed a survey designing technique commonly known as the randomized response method to tackle questions about social desirability, like sensitive behaviors and beliefs. Respondents are asked to use a randomization device, such as drawing a card, flipping a coin etc. whose outcome is not observed by the interviewer. By introducing a small component as a random noise, the method hides individual responses and privacy of respondents are protected. While a good number of methodological advances have been made, the applications of this promising survey technique is surprisingly limited, as of now.

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