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Response rate is the single most important indicator of how much confidence can be placed in the results of a survey. A low response rate can be devastating to the reliability of a study.

One of the most powerful tool for increasing response is to use follow-ups or reminders. Traditionally, between 10 and 60 percent of those sent questionnaires respond without follow-up reminders. These rates are too low to yield confident results, so the need to follow up on nonrespondents is clear.

Researchers can increase the response from follow-up attempts by including another copy of the questionnaire. When designing the follow-up procedure, it is important for the researcher to keep in mind the unique characteristics of the people in the sample. The most successful follow-ups have been achieved by phone calls.

Many researchers have examined whether postcard follow-ups are effective in increasing response. The vast majority of these studies show that a follow-up postcard slightly increases response rate, and a meta-analysis revealed an aggregate gain of 3.5 percent. The postcard serves as a reminder for subjects who have forgotten to complete the survey.

 

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