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Increasing web survey response rates: What works?

September 14 @ 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm


A 4-hour workshop taught by Paul D. Umbach, Ph.D.



Are you getting low response rates when you conduct web surveys? This workshop provides valuable information about how to increase web survey response rates. The purpose of this class is to arm you with the knowledge and range of techniques researchers suggest increase web survey response rates. We examine the heuristics people use when deciding to participate in a survey and answer survey questions and explore ways to increase the likelihood that they will respond. We look at simple ways to increase response rates, such as how to structure your invitation and reminder emails, how many reminders to send and when to send them, whether to use an incentive or lottery, and how to tweak your web survey design to encourage participation. You will leave this workshop with new strategies for getting higher response rates and more complete survey data.

Expected outcomes

By the end of this workshop, participants should understand the causes and consequences of nonresponse in web surveys, have a framework for knowing how to reduce nonresponse, and know how to calculate response rates. Most importantly, participants will be armed with simple tools and techniques that will increase web survey response rates in their own work.

Pricing and Schedule

Time: Thursday, September 14, 12PM to 4PM (EST)
Cost: $175
Location: Online

We offer $25 graduate student and multiple workshop discounts. Find out about our discounts here.

Time permitting, at the end of the class Dr. Umbach will also answer questions about participants’ specific research projects. Participants can ask questions via chat, microphone, or telephone. In order to allow sufficient time for questions, the number of workshop participants is limited to 30.

Who should attend?

This course is aimed at anyone who wishes to increase response rates of their web surveys. We expect that you have some experience and knowledge of survey design, but this course is taught at an introductory level. The target audience for this workshop is a range of educational researchers, including institutional researchers, policy analysts, student affairs professionals, assessment professionals, graduate students, and faculty, who use surveys in their work. We also expect those implementing web surveys outside of educational settings would also benefit from this course.


  1. Define nonresponse
  2. Examine causes and consequences of nonresponse: How much of a problem is it?
  3. Explain a framework to guide your decisions about how to reduce nonresponse
  4. Explore practical ways to reduce nonresponse in web surveys (we’ll spend most of our time on this)
    1. Administration techniques to boost participation (e.g, structure of invitation and reminder emails, timing/number of emails)
    2. Design elements that increase likelihood of response (e.g., question order, progress updates)
    3. Question wording and nonresponse (e.g., questions that get interest)
    4. Incentives, lotteries, and other inducements
  5. Examine ways to reduce item nonresponse (e.g., skipping questions) and breakoff (stopping before completion) and ways to reduce them
    1. Question wording and item nonresponse
    2. Question order and breakoff (e.g., where to place open-ended questions)
    3. Sensitive questions and item nonresponse
  6. Discuss various ways to calculate and communicate response rates
  7. Briefly discuss about what to do after you’ve collected the data
    1. Postsurvey adjustments for unit nonresponse (e.g., weighting, response propensity)
    2. Ways to handle item nonresponse
    3. Conducting nonresponse studies


September 14
12:00 pm - 4:00 pm
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