Reaching and Hearing the Invisible: Organizational Research on Invisible Stigmatized Groups via Web Surveys

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Abstract

Sampling is fundamental to the credibility of any empirical investigation, and this is no different for populations with an invisible stigma (such as sexual orientation, illness or disability). The purpose of this paper is therefore to provide an empirical assessment of the strengths of web surveys over hard-copy surveys in conducting research targeting groups with an invisible stigma. Using a sample of gay men, this study demonstrates that when employed with a broad-based recruitment strategy web surveys increase rather than reduce sampling coverage for invisible stigmatized populations. Further, we provide evidence that the web survey technique can yield data of comparable quality to that obtained with a hard-copy survey. The paper concludes with strategies researchers and organizations can adopt to overcome barriers in obtaining a diverse sample when using web surveys and can be used by organizations as a mechanism for creating an inclusive culture by ‘listening to the voices’ of individuals belonging to an invisible stigmatized group.

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