"The problem is that the types of respondents who return questionnaires may be a specific type of 'eager-beaver' or 'gung-ho' respondent. Thus the results of the survey can only be generalized to 'eager-beaver' or 'gung-ho' people in the population rather than to the entire population."
The scope of the self-selection problem can be illustrated by the fact that 'impersonal' questionnaires (e.g., mail surveys) typically attract an initial response rate of only around 30%, and over 50% can already be seen as a good response (Gillham, 2000). Although there are several ways of increasing respondent motivation and subsequent return rate (cf. Sections 3.2.1 and 3.3), with the exception of 'captive groups' (e.g., students surveyed in a lecture hall as part of some scheduled instructional activity), we can always expect a considerable self-selection effect, which suggests that - given that in order to ensure sample representativeness, a response rate of at least 80% is considered necessary - survey samples are frequently biased in some unknown manner (Aiken, 1997).
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