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Improving Postal Survey Response Using Behavioural Science: A Nested Randomised Control Trial

McBride, E; Mase, H; Kerrison, R; Marlow, L; Waller, J; (2022) Improving Postal Survey Response Using Behavioural Science: A Nested Randomised Control Trial. BMC Medical Research Methodology , 21 , Article 280. 10.1186/s12874-021-01476-7. Green open access

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Abstract

Background: Systematic reviews have identified effective strategies for increasing postal response rates to questionnaires; however, most studies have isolated single techniques, testing the effect of each one individually. Despite providing insight into explanatory mechanisms, this approach lacks ecological validity, given that multiple techniques are often combined in routine practice. // Methods: We used a two-armed parallel randomised controlled trial (n = 2702), nested within a cross-sectional health survey study, to evaluate whether using a pragmatic combination of behavioural science and evidenced-based techniques (e.g., personalisation, social norms messaging) in a study invitation letter increased response to the survey, when compared with a standard invitation letter. Participants and outcome assessors were blinded to group assignment. We tested this in a sample of women testing positive for human papillomavirus (HPV) at cervical cancer screening in England. // Results: Overall, 646 participants responded to the survey (response rate [RR] = 23.9%). Logistic regression revealed higher odds of response in the intervention arm (n = 357/1353, RR = 26.4%) compared with the control arm (n = 289/1349, RR = 21.4%), while adjusting for age, deprivation, clinical site, and clinical test result (aOR = 1.30, 95% CI: 1.09–1.55). // Conclusion: Applying easy-to-implement behavioural science and evidence-based methods to routine invitation letters improved postal response to a health-related survey, whilst adjusting for demographic characteristics. Our findings provide support for the pragmatic adoption of combined techniques in routine research to increase response to postal surveys.

Type: Article
Title: Improving Postal Survey Response Using Behavioural Science: A Nested Randomised Control Trial
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s12874-021-01476-7
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12874-021-01476-7
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Keywords: RCT; Behavioural science; Postal response; Methodology; Recruitment; Trials
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Behavioural Science and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Epidemiology and Public Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10139223
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