Using Online Surveys to Capture Time-Sensitive Data in a Low-Resource Setting


Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, conducting online research in rural Central America seemed nearly impossible, but as the COVID-19 pandemic began, online research became the only feasible method available to reach the population. There were limited time and resources available to conduct the research, so an online survey form was quickly created, translated, and back translated for clarity across demographics. The differing meanings among colloquial terms necessitated the use of a survey platform with multiple translations to ensure respondents understood the questions. The study sought out to determine whether an efficient sampling methodology designed to navigate the challenges of the pandemic could produce data representative of the community. A purposive sample was selected to gather representative data of the population based on the accessibility of the targeted audience and the assumption of their knowledge of the communities’ sentiments. It was found that the data collected were not representative of the entire population as there was significant variation in the data collected for two reasons. First, inequitable access to technology blocked access to the survey. Second, community leaders did not reliably represent the answers given by their respective communities. While the sample of the population was not completely representative, it provided a sufficient baseline and insight into the different perspectives held within the population, which served the immediate need of the research. The subsequent data analysis highlighted challenges from the data collection process that resulted in an unrepresentative sample, which should be addressed in future research and evaluation studies.

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