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P.R. Grant


Ethical and methodologucal improvements to mail survey research: an alternative follow-up method


Follow-up contacts increase response rates to mail surveys substantially. However, for individuals who do not wish to participate such repeated contacts are intrusive, creating an ethical concern. An alternative follow-up procedure was developed that allows contacted individuals to choose not to participate by returning a “Reasons for Not Responding” (RNR) form. This study was designed to compare the RNR method with a traditional follow-up procedure, the Total Design method (TDM). Specifically, a two (follow-up method) by two (early versus late return) between-subjects design was used to examine satisfaction with and quality of responses to a survey mailed to 300 randomly selected households. The results showed that respondents in the RNR conditions were more satisfied with the research than respondents in the TDM conditions, particularly after repeated contacts. Further, although response quality was equivalent for the two methods in the early returns, it was lower in the TDM group, but not in the RNR group, after repeated contacts. These results suggest that mail survey researchers should seriously consider using the RNR method, especially because (a) the overall response rate to the two methods was very similar, (b) the nonrespondents frequently indicated on their RNR forms that they had made an informed decision not to participate, and (c) the RNR form allows researchers to collect information on the demographic characteristics of nonrespondents.