Response rate differences between web and alternative data collection methods for public health research: a systematic review of the literature

Int J Public Health. 2018 Jul;63(6):765-773. doi: 10.1007/s00038-018-1108-4. Epub 2018 Apr 24.


Objectives: To systematically review the literature and compare response rates (RRs) of web surveys to alternative data collection methods in the context of epidemiologic and public health studies.

Methods: We reviewed the literature using PubMed, LILACS, SciELO, WebSM, and Google Scholar databases. We selected epidemiologic and public health studies that considered the general population and used two parallel data collection methods, being one web-based. RR differences were analyzed using two-sample test of proportions, and pooled using random effects. We investigated agreement using Bland-and-Altman, and correlation using Pearson's coefficient.

Results: We selected 19 studies (nine randomized trials). The RR of the web-based data collection was 12.9 percentage points (p.p.) lower (95% CI = - 19.0, - 6.8) than the alternative methods, and 15.7 p.p. lower (95% CI = - 24.2, - 7.3) considering only randomized trials. Monetary incentives did not reduce the RR differences. A strong positive correlation (r = 0.83) between the RRs was observed.

Conclusions: Web-based data collection present lower RRs compared to alternative methods. However, it is not recommended to interpret this as a meta-analytical evidence due to the high heterogeneity of the studies.

Keywords: E-epidemiology; Epidemiology; Public health; Response rate; Survey methodology; Web surveys.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research*
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Public Health*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*