Advance notice

Surprising as it may sound, the administration of the questionnaire really does not start when the survey administrator first appears on the scene with a bundle of sheets in his/her hand. In most cases several important things about the survey have been determined in the respondent by that time. For example, Sudman and Bradburn (1983) conclude that most refusals to cooperate occur before the interviewers have had a chance to explain fully the purposes of the survey. In a paper entirely devoted to analyzing test/questionnaire administration, Clemans (1971, p. 193) also emphasizes that "To a very considerable extent, the examinee's attitudes toward the test will have been formed before the day it is administered."

One important factor that influences the respondent's initial disposition is the person's general attitude toward questionnaires. Some people simply cannot stand any kinds of self-completed forms and there isn't much we can do about it. What we can do, however, is to announce the questionnaire a few days in advance and to send each participant a printed leaflet that explains the purpose and nature of the questionnaire, contains a few sample items, and invites participation. This is an effective method of generating a positive climate for the administration and it also reduces the anxiety caused by the unexpected and unknown. Such advance notice also raises the 'professional' feel of the survey, which in turn promotes positive participant attitudes.

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