Does questionnaire structure influence response in postal surveys?

J Clin Epidemiol. 2003 Jan;56(1):10-6. doi: 10.1016/s0895-4356(02)00567-x.


This study tested the effect of questionnaire structure on response, speed of return, and content of answers in a postal survey. All 259 patients aged 30-59 years who consulted with back pain at four UK general practices from March to June 2001 were randomly allocated to receive either a traditionally or chronologically structured self-completion questionnaire. The response was higher and the returns quicker (P =.05) for the chronologic questionnaire. There were no statistically significant differences in completion rates or scores on the SF-36, Chronic Pain Grade, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, or Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire between the two types of questionnaire, and test-retest reliability was high for all scales. Changing questionnaire structure to make questions chronologic does not substantially affect the answers given, but may make a questionnaire more acceptable and easier to complete and speed up returns.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Back Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Participation
  • Pilot Projects
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*
  • Time Factors