Effect of questionnaire length, personalisation and reminder type on response rate to a complex postal survey : randomised controlled trial

Sahlqvist, Shannon, Song, Yena, Bull, Fiona, Adams, Emma, Preston, John and Ogilvie, David 2011, Effect of questionnaire length, personalisation and reminder type on response rate to a complex postal survey : randomised controlled trial, BMC medical research methodology, vol. 11, pp. 1-8.

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Title Effect of questionnaire length, personalisation and reminder type on response rate to a complex postal survey : randomised controlled trial
Author(s) Sahlqvist, Shannon
Song, Yena
Bull, Fiona
Adams, Emma
Preston, John
Ogilvie, David
Journal name BMC medical research methodology
Volume number 11
Start page 1
End page 8
Total pages 8
Publisher BioMed Central
Place of publication London, U. K.
Publication date 2011
ISSN 1471-2288
Keyword(s) questionnaire
data
physical activity
exercise
Summary Background: Minimising participant non-response in postal surveys helps to maximise the generalisability of the inferences made from the data collected. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of questionnaire length, personalisation and reminder type on postal survey response rate and quality and to compare the costeffectiveness of the alternative survey strategies.
Methods: In a pilot study for a population study of travel behaviour, physical activity and the environment, 1000 participants sampled from the UK edited electoral register were randomly allocated using a 2 × 2 factorial design to receive one of four survey packs: a personally addressed long (24 page) questionnaire pack, a personally addressed short (15 page) questionnaire pack, a non-personally addressed long questionnaire pack or a nonpersonally addressed short questionnaire pack. Those who did not return a questionnaire were stratified by initial randomisation group and further randomised to receive either a full reminder pack or a reminder postcard. The effects of the survey design factors on response were examined using multivariate logistic regression.
Results: An overall response rate of 17% was achieved. Participants who received the short version of the questionnaire were more likely to respond (OR = 1.48, 95% CI 1.06 to 2.07). In those participants who received a reminder, personalisation of the survey pack and reminder also increased the odds of response (OR = 1.44, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.95). Item non-response was relatively low, but was significantly higher in the long questionnaire than the short (9.8% vs 5.8%; p = .04). The cost per additional usable questionnaire returned of issuing the reminder packs was £23.1 compared with £11.3 for the reminder postcards.
Conclusions: In contrast to some previous studies of shorter questionnaires, this trial found that shortening a relatively lengthy questionnaire significantly increased the response. Researchers should consider the trade off between the value of additional questions and a larger sample. If low response rates are expected, personalisation may be an important strategy to apply. Sending a full reminder pack to non-respondents appears a worthwhile, albeit more costly, strategy.
Language eng
Field of Research 119999 Medical and Health Sciences not elsewhere classified
Socio Economic Objective 970111 Expanding Knowledge in the Medical and Health Sciences
HERDC Research category C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2011, Sahlqvist, et al.
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30042649

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