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Comparing response rates in e-mail and paper surveys: A meta-analysis

Educational Research Review
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.edurev.2008.01.003
  • E-Mail Survey
  • Mail Survey
  • Electronic Mail
  • Response Rate
  • Meta-Analysis


Abstract This meta-analysis examined 35 study results within last 10 years that directly compared the response rates of e-mail versus mail surveys. Individual studies reported inconsistent findings concerning the response rate difference between e-mail and mail surveys, but e-mail surveys generally have lower response rate (about 20% lower on the average) than mail surveys. Two study features (population type and follow-up reminders) could account for some variation in the e-mail and mail survey response rate differences across the studies. For the studies involving college populations, the response rate difference between e-mail and mail surveys was much smaller, or even negligible, suggesting that e-mail survey is reasonably comparable with mail survey for college populations. The finding about follow-up reminder as a statistically significant study feature turns out to be somewhat an anomaly. Other study features (i.e., article type, random assignment of survey respondents into e-mail and mail survey modes, and use of incentives) did not prove to be statistically useful in accounting for the variation of response rate differences between mail and e-mail surveys. The findings here suggest that, in this age of internet technology, mail survey is still superior to e-mail survey in terms of obtaining higher response rate.

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