Completion rate

The completion rate is the proportion of those in the potential sample who actually participate in the research. The sampling is ineffective if too few candidates end up being questioned or observed. We would expect at least 50 to 60% of those designated as potential respondents to participate. The problem is that non-respondents are often different in some way from those who participate. The way in which this problem is tackled depends on how both the first contact with the person and the follow-up contacts are made.

In consumer telephone surveys, the timing of the call may be a critical factor. If the study involves working mothers, the hours of dinner preparation and serving should be avoided in order to gain cooperation. Evenings and weekends provide a better opportunity to secure interviews where the male household head is to be questioned. However, evening calls to retired people may be unproductive since some senior citizens retire early and will not be pleased if prevented from doing so or if awakened from their sleep.

Achieving a 50% response rate on the first call is good going. Call-backs are a necessity, as are specific plans and record keeping to ensure that the call-back plan is properly carried through. Where a postal survey is involved, records should be kept for each individual showing the original date of posting. After a set number of days without a response, a second letter or even a telephone call is made. In the case of telephone and personal interview studies, you need to have some idea about why there is a non-response. It may be that there is no one at home (or no answer to the telephone), or the qualified respondent is not available. In the former case, the call-back is made on a random basis, following a predetermined plan that may schedule the follow-up attempt at a time when someone is there. It may be a different day, a different hour. If the non-response is because the qualified person is not available, there should be a procedure in which the individual who is at home can suggest a good time to make the call.

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