Response Rates in Survey Research

  • Robert T. Sataloff
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence and reprint requests to Robert T. Sataloff, Drexel University College of Medicine, 219 N. Broad Street, 10th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107.
    Affiliations
    Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA

    Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania
    Search for articles by this author
  • Swetha Vontela
    Affiliations
    Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA
    Search for articles by this author
Published:February 03, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2020.12.043
      Medical research using questionnaires and surveys has been useful for gathering data, especially for subjective information from the respondents. Originally, survey research was performed through in-person, telephone, and/or postal surveys, but with the advent of the internet, electronic surveys have been used regularly as well. A Pubmed search for “otolaryngology” and “survey” results in over 10,000 studies published in just the last 10 years. Despite the prevalence of survey research, there is no validated set of reporting guidelines. As discussed by Bennett et al, the top journals across 33 specialties do not have a validated checklist for conducting or reporting survey research. There also is no consensus on acceptable minimum survey response rates. Acceptable response rates have been reported from 40%
      • Story DA
      • Tait AR.
      Survey research.
      to 75%
      • Reinisch JF
      • Yu DC
      • Li WY.
      Getting a valid survey response from 662 plastic surgeons in the 21st century.
      across different specialties, and the Journal of the American Medical Association requires at least a 60% response rate.
      • Bennett C
      • Khangura S
      • Brehaut JC
      • et al.
      ng guidelines for survey research: an analysis of published guidance and reporting practices.
      However, a cursory search shows that studies have been published in top otolaryngology journals with response rates as low as 27.5%,
      • Malloy KM
      • Ellender SM
      • Goldenberg D
      • et al.
      y of current practices, attitudes, and knowledge regarding human papillomavirus-related cancers and vaccines among head and neck surgeons.
      and without reported response rates.
      • Laitman BM
      • Oliver K
      • Genden E.
      Medical student knowledge of human papillomavirus-positive head and neck cancer.
      ,
      • Luryi AL
      • Yarbrough WG
      • Niccolai LM
      • et al.
      awareness of head and neck cancers: a cross-sectional survey.
      This lack of consistency in validation is surprising and concerning given the prevalence of these studies, and this deficiency requires the reader to assess the quality of each survey-based study. An understanding of response rate and nonresponse bias, as well as methods to improve response rate, should help readers evaluate survey-based publications.
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