Alexander Wenz
Do distractions during web survey completion affect data quality? Findings from a laboratory experiment

Social Science Computer Review, 2021: 39, issue 1, pp. 148-161
ISSN: 0894-4393 (print), 1552-8286 (online)

Web survey respondents are frequently distracted during survey completion, which potentially affects the quality of data they provide. This article reports on results from a laboratory experiment examining how distractions during web survey completion influence data quality. Participants were randomly assigned to experimental groups using a 2 (device type) × 3 (form of distraction) between-subject factorial design. They were asked to complete a web questionnaire on either a PC or a tablet and were allocated to one of the three distraction conditions: (1) the presence of other people in the room who have a loud conversation, (2) the presence of music, or (3) no distraction. The study examines the effect of distraction on various measures of data quality and attentiveness. While participants felt significantly more distracted in the presence of other people or music, the study found no significant effect of distraction for any of the data quality and attentiveness measures. The findings are encouraging for survey practitioners: Even if web respondents listen to music or are in noisy environments, these forms of distraction generally do not seem to affect the quality of responses they provide.