Journal Article

Increasing Response to Mailed Questionnaires by Including a Pencil/Pen

Emily White, Patricia A. Carney and Ann Shattuck Kolar

in American Journal of Epidemiology

Published on behalf of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Volume 162, issue 3, pages 261-266
Published in print August 2005 | ISSN: 0002-9262
Published online August 2005 | e-ISSN: 1476-6256 | DOI:
Increasing Response to Mailed Questionnaires by Including a Pencil/Pen

Show Summary Details


Nonmonetary incentives lead to small increases in response rates to mailed questionnaires. However, inclusion of a pen or pencil, which may be a facilitating factor as well as a reward, has not been shown to improve response to health surveys in prior trials. In 2001 and 2002, the authors conducted two US trials in which a study-logo pen or pencil was randomly included in a second questionnaire mailed to nonresponders to a first mailing. In the first study, of 10,686 nonresponders to a cohort recruitment mailing, response to the second mailing was 55% with inclusion of a pen versus 40% without one (p < 0.001). In the second study, of 141 nonresponders to a pilot follow-up survey conducted 2 years after entry into a cohort, response was 43% with inclusion of a pencil versus 24% without one (p = 0.02). This 15–19 percentage point increase for mailing 2 translated to a 5–6 percentage point increase after the two mailings combined. In a simulated study of three mailings based on these studies, the overall response rate increased by 4 percentage points at no added cost through inclusion of a pencil in the second mailing. The additional cost of the pencil was compensated for by the reduced number of nonrespondents sent packets at the third mailing. This study supports including a study-logo pen or pencil in a second questionnaire mailing to nonrespondents as a cost-effective method of increasing response rates.

Keywords: data collection; epidemiologic methods; questionnaires; NHWH, New Hampshire Women for Health; VITAL, VITamins And Lifestyle

Journal Article.  3687 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.