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Experiences Using Online Testing to Support Survey-Methods Research and Pre-Testing in the Federal Government

Erica Yu, Aleia C.  Fobia, Jessica  Graber, Jessica  Holzberg, Robin L.  Kaplan, Brandon  Kopp, Kashka  Kubzdela, William  Mockovak, Rebecca L.  Morrison, and Paul  Scanlon


A recent innovation in federal agencies is the use of online testing methods to conduct questionnaire pretesting and evaluation, cognitive interviews, usability testing, and primary methodological research. Results from small-scale research conducted online can provide evidence to support changes to survey questionnaires and data collection procedures before they are implemented in the field while reducing the costs and staff time needed to conduct the research and improving data quality compared to other data collection methods.

This white paper offers an introduction to conducting online testing within the federal system. The authors, who are researchers from federal agencies including the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics, provide a foundation for thinking about when online testing methods are appropriate, guidance on how to use online testing methods to supplement and complement in-lab research, and case studies from experience using several platforms. The paper also provides practical considerations for using these platforms in federal agencies, including the use of contracting tools and services.