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J Clin Epidemiol. 2003 Jan;56(1):10-6.

Does questionnaire structure influence response in postal surveys?

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  • 1Keele University, Primary Care Sciences Research Centre, Hornbeam Building, Keele, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, UK. k.m.dunn@cphc.keele.ac.uk


This study tested the effect of questionnaire structure on response, speed of return, and content of answers in a postal survey. All 259 patients aged 30-59 years who consulted with back pain at four UK general practices from March to June 2001 were randomly allocated to receive either a traditionally or chronologically structured self-completion questionnaire. The response was higher and the returns quicker (P =.05) for the chronologic questionnaire. There were no statistically significant differences in completion rates or scores on the SF-36, Chronic Pain Grade, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, or Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire between the two types of questionnaire, and test-retest reliability was high for all scales. Changing questionnaire structure to make questions chronologic does not substantially affect the answers given, but may make a questionnaire more acceptable and easier to complete and speed up returns.

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