Mail Surveys

The UWSC conducts dozens of mail survey projects each year. We conduct all phases of the mail survey process, from questionnaire design, and formatting, to mail out and log in, data entry, data delivery, and report writing. The project director and client work together to design effective materials (such as a cover letter and the design of the questionnaire cover) and a sequence of mailings (for example, an advance letter, questionnaire, and reminder) to obtain a high response rate within the client's budget constraints. UWSC staff are able to assist clients in formatting a self-administered instrument that reduces burden on the respondent.

To ensure that mailings are assembled accurately, the supervisor organizes all materials and reviews the protocol for the study with staff at the beginning of each shift. The space and organization of our mail facility allow us to complete complex mailings for multiple projects accurately. For example, in a recent study, the sample was structured as 10 independent replicates of approximately 800, some of which received different versions of the questionnaire. Large mailings are assembled in small batches and in a step-wise fashion (for example, all materials are labeled with case identification numbers before putting packets together, no packets are sealed until all of the incentives are inserted, and no postage is attached until all packets are sealed). We examine a 20% sample of packets assembled each day for accuracy. We have a safe on site for storing incentive payments, and an auditing procedure to ensure that these payments are tracked.

Mail returns are logged into a database, and cases that require further locating are referred for additional tracking. Superb respondent tracking tools allow us to keep track of the status of each respondent case throughout all points in the research project. This allows us to give clients up-to-date project status reports as frequently as they need. Using a well trained, dedicated staff, the latest techniques and most effective methodologies, UWSC has attained consistently high response rates on its mail surveys.

Overview of Quality Control in Mail Surveys

  • Outgoing packages are assembled in small batches (ten to twenty at a time) in order to reduce error in package contents
  • All packages are kept in order throughout the assembly process
  • No packages are sealed until all of the packages are assembled. If an error occurs, envelopes do not need to be reopened as assembled packages are checked
  • The supervisor or mail lead worker on the project conducts spot checking on at least 15-20% of assembled packages
  • EVERY package is checked for postage before going to the post office