Administer the Survey
Communication Is Key
After communicating with your Institutional Review Board (IRB) and incorporating the feedback obtained from your pilot respondents, you can move forward with administering the survey. How that occurs will depend on the specific method you have choose (on-line, mail, in-person). For most methods, providing respondents with prior notice, and reminding individuals to complete the survey after they have received the request are common practices which have been shown to significantly increase the proportion of individuals who respond.
Provide Prior Notification
A request to complete a survey can easily be overlooked or ignored. Giving respondents prior notice that they will receive a request to participate in a survey is good ethical practice and provides an opportunity to frame the rationale for the survey. Whenever possible, prior notice for a survey should be supplied by someone whom the respondents are familiar with.
Prior notice can include the following:
- The purpose of the survey
- Who is conducting the survey
- Any assurances regarding anonymity and confidentiality
- The survey process: how to complete surveys and the deadline
- Who to contact with questions
Some of the same text created for the prior notification can be included in the request to participate in the survey and also at the beginning of the actual survey instrument.
The information you include in your prior notice can be used again as a reminder to complete the survey. In the reminder notice, the deadline for completing the survey should be emphasized.
Reminder: Using prior notification and a sending a reminder after the actual request for participation in a survey has repeatedly been shown to significantly increase the rate of response.
Regardless of the method you use to administer your survey (e.g. web, telephone, in-person) you should keep track of how many individuals participated, divided by the total number of individuals whose participation was requested. These figures will allow you to calculate the Rate of Response, which allows those who are interested in your assessment to understand the degree to which your results represent the population or sample you are interested in. Additional information on how at maximize the response rate is at Maximizing Response Rate And Controlling Non-Response Error.
Follow-up telephone calls to solicit responses from mail surveys may also significantly increase response rates, but they are time-consuming, and may consume substantial financial resources depending on the sample size.
Additional Standard Practices In Administering Surveys:
- Setting a deadline that gives adequate time to respond
- Thanking respondents for their time and participation at the conclusion of the survey
- Offering specific benefits for completing surveys where appropriate and if resources allow (Note: using the term "incentives" in this context is no longer acceptable for federal funding agencies)
- Including a mechanism for sharing results with respondents who are interested