Advantages and disadvantages of using mail surveys - Essay Example

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One of the survey methods available is mail survey. Mail survey uses a printed questionnaire where questions may be open- or close-ended. A close ended question can be…
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Advantages and disadvantages of using mail surveys
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RUNNING HEAD: ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF USING MAIL SURVEYS Advantages and Disadvantages of using Mail Surveys School Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Mail Surveys
A survey is mode of data collection from identified or pre-selected respondents for specific purposes. One of the survey methods available is mail survey. Mail survey uses a printed questionnaire where questions may be open- or close-ended. A close ended question can be answerable by simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. This type of survey is structured wherein the same questions, grouped or categorized according to themes, are asked from respondents. Mail survey is appropriate to use when the target respondents comprise of individuals who achieved a higher educational attainment and literacy (Mail Surveys, 2005). The respondents also have an interest in the subject of the survey (Mail Surveys, 2005). The person administering the survey should also possess beforehand a mailing list of the respondents (Mail Surveys, 2005).
Mail survey is practical to use because the researcher need not consume a lot of time setting an appointment with the respondent for a personal interview or dialing each of the telephone numbers for a phone interview. In a phone interview, there is a possibility that the respondent cannot be contacted due to a number of reasons (e.g. sudden important appointment of respondent, emergency meeting). In a mail survey, once all the letters are delivered to the post office, the burden of delivery is shifted to the postal network (Mail Surveys, 2005). Mailing cost is cheaper (Mail Surveys, 2005) than commuting personally to reach a respondent. This method can reach a wider sample size because there is no personal interaction between the researcher and the respondents (Mail Surveys, 2005).
Respondents are not time-pressured to answer the questionnaires but can do it any time at their convenience (Mail Surveys, 2005). Moreover, bias of the interviewer is reduced with lack of personal interaction with the respondent (Mail Surveys, 2005). It is appropriate in soliciting customer suggestions and proposals or feedback on the changes to be implemented by an organization (Mail Surveys, 2004). This is also an effective approach in acquiring sensitive information such as personal feedbacks of respondents who are discontented or disgruntled with a service or organization (Mail Surveys, 2004).
Mail survey is disadvantageous because the respondent may simply ignore the questionnaire and not take the effort to answer it and mail it back. In short, there is no assurance that the target respondent will respond to the mail survey (Mail Surveys, 2004). People with low literacy usually have low response rate (around 20 percent) that the response cannot be significantly justifiable to elicit a conclusion (Mail Surveys, 2005). On the other hand, utilizing only people with high educational attainment could result to a biased conclusion and not truly representative of the population (Mail Surveys, 2005). With many migrants having low literacy level, they will be excluded from the sample size but whose experiences or point-of-view are relevant to the study being undertaken (Mail Surveys, 2005). It is said that mail surveys produce low quality data because respondents are not inclined to answer open-ended questions, may not follow the instructions or write illegibly (Mail Surveys, 2004).
Eliminating Disadvantages
Low quality data can be remedied by verifying with the respondents the unclear or unanswered questions. This would entail sending another correspondence to the respondents with the photocopy of the original answered questionnaire and pointing to the unanswered questions or unclear answers. Regarding immigrant respondents who cannot comprehend English, the researcher can anticipate their nationality from their names, thus, the questionnaire may be mailed with the English and another language so that the respondent can choose which one to fill up. On the actual low turnout of response, the sample size requirement can still be complied with by sending out questionnaires to more respondents so that even if a fraction of them did not respond, the responding persons would still be sufficient for a representative sample size.
Points for Interviewers
The first important point for an interviewer to remember is to set an appointment with the respondent. This can be done by sending a letter or through a telephone. If the interview will be conducted through telephone, the respondent can be asked if he or she is available at that point in time and if not, set another date and time for an appointment. The interviewer should eliminate all biases especially in personal interview since the reaction or facial expression of the interviewer may affect the response of the respondent. However, in a telephone interview, the voice of the interviewer may manifest bias, therefore, he or she must learn to project a neutral voice. The interviewer should present the questions with the same “stimuli” to all respondents so that questions would have the same meaning to them (Houtkoop-Steenstra, n.d., p. 1). Thus, the interviewer should rehearse the lines before actually conducting an interview (Houtkoop-Steenstra, n.d.). Side comments, or any positive or negative feedback should be avoided altogether (Houtkoop-Steenstra, n.d.).

Houtkoop-Steenstra, H. (n.d.). Problems of Standardization in Standardized Survey Interviews. November 11, 2009, from
Mail Surveys. (2004). Market Street Research. Retrieved November 11, 2009, from
Mail Surveys vs. Web Surveys: A Comparison. (2005, March 18). SuperSurvey. Knowledge Base Link. Retrieved November 11, 2009, from Read More
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