Multiple Surveys of Students and Survey Fatigue. Porter, S., R., Whitcomb, M., E., & Weitzer, W., H. NEW DIRECTIONS FOR INSTITUTIONAL RESEARCH, 2004.
Multiple Surveys of Students and Survey Fatigue [pdf]Paper  abstract   bibtex   
As described in Chapter One, survey nonresponse has been increasing both in the United States and internationally, and much of this nonresponse is due to rising rates of refusal. In many discussions about the rise in survey nonresponse, survey fatigue is often cited as one possible cause. Steeh (1981, p. 53), for example, cites " overexposure to the survey process, " while de Heer (1999) notes some interesting variations in the number of surveys being conducted in different countries as influencing response rates across countries. Despite the view that rising nonresponse rates are in part caused by an increase in the number of surveys, there has been almost no research on the impact of multiple survey requests on survey response. In part this is not surprising, because most research on survey nonresponse analyzes only one survey and thus focuses on a single point in time (Harris-Kojetin and Tucker, 1999). Yet the issue of survey fatigue will become increasingly important as the costs of designing and administering a survey decrease. A variety of software products now allow anyone with minimal technical skills to create and administer a simple Web survey. This issue is also of vital importance to research in higher education, as the use of student surveys in assessment and institutional research con-tinues to increase. A large array of national surveys that together can be used to describe and assess almost any facet of the undergraduate experi-ence are currently available. Most colleges and universities have their own internally designed surveys as well. Add to the mix the growing pressures for assessment from outside groups such as legislatures and accrediting 64 OVERCOMING SURVEY RESEARCH PROBLEMS agencies, and internal pressures from individual offices trying to show performance results and the pressure to administer multiple surveys can be intense. Even if the number of surveys on a campus is limited, the timing of the surveys could be such that two surveys may overlap or be administered back-to-back. On many campuses this may even happen unknowingly, as different offices administer their particular survey unaware of the actions of other offices. Educational researchers must understand the impact of mul-tiple surveys on response rates in order to appropriately design and imple-ment their surveys. Understanding the impact of multiple surveys can allow an institution to juggle various demands and can also act as an impetus for the development of a survey research policy. Quantifying the impact of survey fatigue is also useful for individual institutions grappling with demands for surveys from numerous internal constituencies. For larger schools, multiple surveys do not necessarily pose a problem, because many large samples of students can be drawn without surveying the same students twice. For smaller schools, however, conduct-ing multiple surveys inevitably means that the same students will be sur-veyed multiple times. This chapter describes two experiments conducted at a selective liberal arts college to quantify the impact of multiple survey requests on student survey response behavior. We seek to answer two questions. First, does implementing multiple student surveys have a negative effect on later sur-veys? Second, if so, does this effect vary by subpopulations of students? Previous Research

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