Last week we talked about how to think about questionnaire design in terms of social exchange theory – how to lower perceived cost and raise perceived rewards and trust in order to get people to complete a questionnaire.
But there’s more to getting people to complete a questionnaire than its design. There are the words you use to ask people to complete your questionnaire (often in the form of the content of an email with the questionnaire attached). And there’s the method of distribution itself – will you email? Mail? Hand it to someone? How many times should you remind someone?
As we have said in the previous post, Boosting Response Rates with Invitation Letters , we recommend the Dillman’s Tailored Design Method (TDM) as a technique for improving response rates. In TDM, in order to get the most responses, you might communicate with your respondents four times. For example, an introduction email before the questionnaire goes out, the email with the questionnaire attached, and two reminders. How does this fit with social exchange theory?
Let’s go back to the three questions we said in the last post that you should always consider, and apply them to communication about and distribution of your questionnaire:
Remember, when you are asking someone to complete a questionnaire for you, you are asking them to take time out of their lives that they cannot get back. Remember too that they have been asked to complete many, many questionnaires in the past that have taken up too much of their time, annoyed them, or have clearly been designed to manipulate them into donating money or in some other way abused their trust. You have to use your communication and distribution strategy to overcome these obstacles. Here are just a few ideas.
Decrease Perceived Cost
Increase Perceived Reward
Increase Perceived Trust
Source: Dillman DA, Smyth JD, and Christian LM. Internet, Phone, Mail, and Mixed-Mode Surveys: The Tailored Design Method, 4th edition. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley; 2014.
As Evaluation Specialist for the NNLM Evaluation Office (NEO), Karen Vargas participates in evaluating the programs of the NNLM, assists people with their program and evaluation planning, and teaches classes on planning and evaluating library programs.