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A study of factors affecting responses in electronic mail surveys

, Western Michigan University, United States

Western Michigan University . Awarded


Electronic mail is becoming increasingly popular as a means to communicate information expediently and inexpensively. One use of electronic mail that has not been well researched is its viability as a tool for data collection. A handful of studies have focused on the differences that exist in responses and response rates of electronic mail surveying compared to other methods of surveying (telephone and postal mail). One area that has not been studied at all is the factors affecting the response rates of electronic mail surveys.

This research study sought to build upon the existing research base of what is known about using electronic mail surveys as a data collection tool. The purpose of the study was to examine various factors, which may be related to response rate for the electronic mail survey. Specifically, the effects of prenotification, personalization of cover letters, and follow-up were the variables studied. Additionally examined was whether there are differences in surveying by regular mail and electronic mail in terms of response rate, time to respond, and the survey responses.

A sample of 528 faculty and staff members from Western Michigan University was selected to take part in the study. The sample was divided into several treatment groups to study each of the independent variables: electronic prenotification message prior to electronic survey; personally addressed cover letter and electronic mail survey; generically addressed cover letter and electronic mail survey; no follow-up letter and survey for nonrespondents; follow-up letter and survey for nonrespondents; and personalized regular postal mail survey.

Follow-up was the variable that most influenced the response rate of the electronic mail survey. Only about one fourth of the sample that did not receive follow-up responded and over 50% of the sample that did receive follow-up responded. Personalized regular mail surveys received a higher response rate than did electronic mail surveys (67% vs. 51%). Electronic mail surveys with precorrespondence and personalization coupled with follow-up produced no differences in response rates when compared to the personalized regular mail survey. Electronic mail surveys were completed and returned on average at a faster rate than regular mail surveys (3 days vs. 15 days).


Good, K.P. A study of factors affecting responses in electronic mail surveys. Ph.D. thesis, Western Michigan University. Retrieved November 15, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

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