Conducting the Survey: Invitations

As the first point of contact, the invitation plays an important role in determining whether someone will respond to a survey. When inviting individuals to complete a survey, there are some things to include that may yield higher response rates.

All survey invitations should include:

General Information 
Let the individual know who is conducting the survey and what topics will be covered in the survey questions.

Salience of the Survey Topic 
Tell the respondent why the survey is important.

Estimated Time of Completion 
Studies have shown that participants who were told a survey would take a short time to complete (8 – 10 minutes) had a higher response rate than those who were told it would take longer (20 minutes). Include the estimated completion time if the time is short, but if the completion time is long, it may be better to exclude it from the invitation.

Security Measures 
To be in accordance with the law, researchers must note the measures, be they anonymous or confidential, taken to protect the respondent’s identity and survey responses. Below are the differences between survey anonymity and confidentiality. For more information, see Ensuring Security.

  • Anonymity: In the case of anonymous surveys, no one, including the researcher, is able to connect a respondent to his/her answers.
  • Confidentiality: When conducting confidential surveys, the researcher may have the capability to match up responses. This can be done at the University of Minnesota using an X-500 user name. However, answers will be decoupled and any information that could identify a respondent will be removed by the researcher or an independent third party.

Optional information to include in an invitation:

  • Statement of Scarcity. Tell the individual that he or she was selected as a part of a small group to participate in the survey.
  • Incentives. Promising an incentive of any kind generates higher response rates than offering none at all.
  • Personalization. There is both positive and negative research in the ways of personalizing survey invitations. On one hand, recipients feel more valued and respected, which increases the probability that they will comply with the researcher’s request. On the other hand, the perceived level of anonymity and privacy decreases with personalization.