Plan Data Collection and Follow-Up Procedures
Most of these tips apply to survey responses or other data collection tools.
Once you have your data collection sample complete and your method chosen, you should be ready to administer your collection project.
Before you administer the data collection project, establish a plan for how you will introduce the project to potential respondents and how you will follow-up to ensure that you receive as many responses as possible from your sample.
Here are some suggested steps to maximize responses for your project:
- Mail information about your project to the respondents in advance. This is especially important for telephone surveys for which you have a very specific target population.
- Include an explanation of the purpose of your project and how the project may benefit your respondents. If it is a mailed survey, include a separate cover letter with this information. Thank the respondents for their participation and provide a deadline by which to respond.
- Include contact information for someone who can answer any questions the respondents might have about the project.
- For mailed surveys, include a postage-paid, pre-addressed envelope for them to return the survey in.
- Make multiple attempts to reach respondents. Mail reminder postcards or e-mails at predefined follow-up time points.
- Make phone or personal contact with those who haven't yet completed the project.
- Use incentives when appropriate.
If you do have a poor response rate to your project, you need to consider that the responses you receive may not reflect the total sample you were surveying. When possible, analyze any information you have on the non-respondents to determine if they differ in any important characteristics from those who responded. Be cautious in interpreting the results from any project with a low response rate.
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