How to Use CloudResearch to Conduct Online Behavioral Research During COVID-19

Aaron Moss, PhD

Everyone knows things today are different than they were before COVID-19 became a global pandemic. Unfortunately, things won’t return to normal anytime soon. So, in the meantime, parts of society that can continue to function are learning to adapt. This includes research within the social sciences.

In order to address questions of pressing social importance and gather the data necessary for publications, grants, theses, and dissertations, psychological researchers and other social scientists have moved their research programs online. Although some labs and some researchers have substantial experience with online research, others are launching online studies for the first time. In this blog, we provide an overview of how to conduct online research and how CloudResearch can help you reach the right participants for your study.

A 3-Step Guide to Getting Started With Online Behavioral Research

Fortunately, the process of conducting online research is pretty simple. There are really only three steps. Build your survey. Find your participants. Analyze your data.

1. Build Your Survey

First, choose a survey platform to construct your study with. For academic researchers, Qualtrics is a common choice because many institutions have a university license. If your institution doesn’t have a license or if you work in industry, platforms like QuestionPro, Alchemer (formerly SurveyGizmo), RedCap, SurveyMonkey, and Gorilla are options to explore, among many others. 

After you’ve chosen a survey platform and created your study, you can generate a URL that directs participants to your study.

2. Find Your Participants

Once you’ve built your study, you need participants. There are many ways to sample people online, but the most efficient is to use a paid participant platform like CloudResearch. With CloudResearch, you can field your study with participants on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk or our Prime Panels platform. In most cases, you can collect data from hundreds or even thousands of people within hours, if not minutes!

3. Analyze Your Data

Once your study completes, you can download the data from your survey platform and start running your analyses.

Helpful Hints

Going through the steps to conduct an online study is easy, but there are a number of details you should be aware of in order to make your study a success. 

  • Pick the Right Participant Platform

There are many options for online research participants. But, making sure the participants you sample are fit for the purposes of your study is crucial to making your study a success.

At CloudResearch we leverage both Amazon Mechanical Turk and a combination of panels, called Prime Panels, to help you find the right participants for your research. If you’re looking for participants to engage in a long, complicated, or demanding research task, participants on MTurk have a history of completing such studies and our MTurk Toolkit makes it easy to set up and manage studies on MTurk. If, on the other hand, you are looking to gather a sample of thousands of participants, target people in hard-to-reach demographic groups, or even sample people within specific zip codes or geographic areas, all of these things are easily accomplished on Prime Panels. We’ve even used Prime Panels to sample people in COVID-19 hotspots and compared their health concerns to people in places where the virus has receded.

  • Take Steps to Ensure Data Quality

Picking participants who are fit for the purpose of your research is the first step in ensuring quality data. After selecting the right participant platform, however, there are several steps you can take to ensure quality data

Some of these steps include using study titles that avoid selection bias, providing participants with clear instructions, piloting your study, compensating participants appropriately, and including appropriate attention check questions. These online study do’s and don’ts provide details.

In addition to the steps you take as a researcher, CloudResearch engages in practices to help ensure the people who enter your study provide quality data. On Mechanical Turk, we conduct ongoing screenings to weed out problematic accounts, and offer the option to target CloudResearch-Approved Participants. And, on Prime Panels, participants are regularly screened to ensure attention, engagement, and English comprehension.

  • Get More From Your Research  

Our team at CloudResearch consists of several experts in social science research. We regularly publish our work in academic journals and we’ve even published an entire book about conducting research online. Our tools are designed to help you gather high-quality data quickly and efficiently. If you have questions, feel free to contact us. Or, if you’re just getting started with online research, request a demo.

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