Department of Neurology
University of Washington, Seattle Campus
Establishing a Precedent
Michael Doherty, a Fellow in the Neurology department, along with his colleagues Alex Schneider and David Tirschwell, were concerned that the high costs of medical school and associated student debt might deter neurology residents from going into academia, which generally pays less than the private sector. In order to conduct research on his questions, Doherty wanted a quick and inexpensive way to reach a large number of people in a confidential manner.
In December 1999, he discovered the WebQ tool and began convincing the University's Human Subjects Division that the survey results would be both valid and confidential. Thankfully, after an introduction to the tool, the institutional review determined that WebQ provides acceptable procedures to protect the privacy and confidentiality of human subjects and is suitable for research projects. (Please note that individual surveys may still require human subjects review.)
After completing the initial setup in January 2002, Doherty sent both the URL (Web address of the WebQ survey) and introductory information to neurology residency coordinators and program directors at other facilities and asked them to forward the information to the residents. Though response rates were low, those residents who replied did so immediately, answering the questions thoroughly and providing Doherty with information that would prove vital to his research.
Doherty had hoped for a higher response rate and speculated that he may have achieved this if he had been able to contact the residents directly, offered incentives to participants, followed up with a second email message, and provided an easier way to access the survey. He also speculates that linking the survey from his department's homepage may have provided more legitimacy to the research. With these suggestions in mind, Catalyst has since added new features to WebQ to make it easier to conduct research. For example, WebQ can now automatically email invitations to potential participants along with reminder emails to those who have not responded.
Doherty's WebQ-aided research has received national recognition. The study was presented at the 2001 American Academy Neurology Meeting in Philadelphia, and his research study was published in Neurology.
WebQ for Research
As many researchers have found, the WebQ tool is a great alternative to the traditional paper survey. Through its use, faculty and staff such as Michael Doherty have conducted research projects that not only find national acclaim but also, through ease of use, allow greater response rates than traditional methods. Additionally, using the feedback from these experiences and others, the Catalyst developers continue to refine and update the tool, making it easier than ever to conduct research using WebQ.
by Adrienne Massanari, Laura Baldwin, and Andy Chow August 2002