Notifying people in advance increases the rate of return in a survey and should be communicated to recipients a few days ahead of the postal questionnaire. The simplest approach is to make use of a personally addressed advance postcard, which alerts the recipient that a questionnaire will soon be on its way. There is a tendency to ignore post sent to 'the occupant' or job title in a place of business, so efforts should be made to personalise the approach. Where a long questionnaire is to be used, advance notice by telephone may be worthwhile.
The cover letter must motivate the recipient to complete and return the questionnaire. It must look interesting and important and seem short so that the recipient need spend little time in finding out the message. The purpose of the study should be described briefly and the benefits to the recipient should be highlighted. Sometimes the recipient can be offered a small token of appreciation for participation and this is generally included in the posted materials. It is important to retain the impression of quality, so a good-quality return envelope should be used.
Follow-ups are intended to increase the proportion of respondents, thereby ensuring a more representative survey. However, the researcher should ensure that enthusiastic respondents do not reply twice. Most often this can be handled by keying, a method of identifying those who respond to the first posting, and approaching only the non-respondents in the follow-up procedure.
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