Technology Required for Panels
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  1. Notifying panelists of a new survey
    1. An online mass email service, such as MailChimp, can broadcast emails to large numbers of respondents without clogging up the organization 's mail handler. The messages (invitations, announcements, surveys, etc.) can be formatted in HTML either using the list management's editor or developed by the organization 's webmaster independently and then uploaded.
      1. They can deliver an HTML formatted message to hundreds or thousands of respondents directly from the Internet rather than through the organization 's mail handler.
      2. If the email includes any URL's (such as a survey or a relevant page on the organization's website), the number of click-throughs can be tracked as a measure of penetration.
      3. The email can convey the graphic identity of the organization, but don't succomb to the temptation to start marketing on the email announcements. If your panel starts to feel that they're just getting marketing materials under the guide of "research", they'll start dropping off.
  2. Managing the lists
    1. Excel spreadsheets can handle the panel membership lists.
    2. The format of the lists is determined by the mail management service. For example, they may require that the email address be the first column, or that the name be separated into first and last.
  3. Administering the survey
    1. An online survey company, such as SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang, can handle the actual administration.
    2. Typically they provide a URL which can be inserted into your email announcement.
    3. Usually there is an option to return to a URL of your choice at the close of the survey. This could be a "Thank You" page on your own website. A good strategy is to reiterate your commitment to using their input. You could even summarize the decisions you've made from previous survey results.
  4. Analyzing the data
    1. The online survey company will provide coarse data analysis, such as distributions and mean scores. It will usually be easier to download the data and conduct your own analysis offline. It also means you can store the data more readily. The online data displays might be valuable for staff who want to look at the data immediately. You could also decide to make the results accessible to respondents. It can be valuable to let members or customers know the preponderance of opinion among their peers.
    2. Microsoft Excel should be sufficient for typical data analysis.
    3. Download the data from the online survey company.
    4. Use the data analysis add-ons for Excel to calculcate descriptive statistics and correlations.
      Select TOOLS > ADD-INS and check the Analysis ToolPak. It will download and install fairly quickly.
  5. Presenting the data
    1. InspireData is a relatively inexpensive program for data exploration that is quite easy to use (it was written for high school students). It can be purchased through . At this writing, it cost $75.
    2. Provides visual displays of distributions along with mean or median scores.
    3. Can code respondents for any demographic variable to enable visual examination of subgroup differences.
  6. Staff support
    1. The ongoing maintenance of the system could be managed by an intern or part-time staff.
      Click here for a description of this position.
    2. The framing of questions requires professional expertise, but it is required only periodically.
    3. Some of the work could be handled by Marketing staff (such as HTML formatting of announcements).
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