Editor’s note: Barbara Schuldt is associate professor, computer information systems, in the Business Administration Department of Bemidji State University, Bemidji, Minn. Jeffrey Totten is assistant professor, business administration, in the Bemidji State Business Administration Department.

Over the past 70 to 80 years, the research industry has seen a lot of changes in the data collection methods it uses. Basic data collection methods (mail survey, telephone interviewing, mall intercepts, and personal interviewing) were developed, used, evaluated, and improved upon. With the advent of computer and communications technologies, researchers developed computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI), computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI), disk-by-mail surveys, and fax surveys as new data collection methods. With the growth of the Internet and computer networks, we’re seeing a steady stream of research into the use of e-mail as a data collection tool, along with Web-based surveys.

As with fax survey research, most of the research on electronic mail as a data collection method has been done in comparison with traditional mail surveys. Though Kiesler and Sproull did initial work in 1986, most of the research has been conducted in this decade. Early research in this decade focused on response rates, speed of data collection, and advantages and disadvantages of using e-mail as a data collection method (see Parker, 1992; Walsh, et al., 1992; Schuldt and Totten, 1994; Thach, 1995; Oppermann, 1995; and Schuldt and Totten, 1997).

Research in the last half of this decade has expanded the exploration to include the following: response quality (usually measured by item nonresponse), survey costs, personalization of e-mail, prenotification, and reminders (see Tse, et al., 1995; Mehta and Sivadas, 1995; Bachmann, Elfrink and Vazzana, 1996; Flaherty, Honeycutt and Powers, 1998; Tse, 1998; Weible and Wall...