Comparing web and mail responses in a mixed mode survey in college alcohol use research

Sean Esteban McCabe, Alison Diez, Carol J. Boyd, Toben F. Nelson, Elissa R. Weitzman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Objective: This exploratory study examined potential mode effects (web versus U.S. mail) in a mixed mode design survey of alcohol use at eight U.S. colleges. Methods: Randomly selected students from eight U.S. colleges were invited to participate in a self-administered survey on their alcohol use in the spring of 2002. Data were collected initially by web survey (n = 2619) and non-responders to this mode were mailed a hardcopy survey (n = 628). Results: College students who were male, living on-campus and under 21 years of age were significantly more likely to complete the initial web survey. Multivariate analyses revealed few substantive differences between survey modality and alcohol use measures. Conclusions: The findings from this study provide preliminary evidence that web and mail surveys produce comparable estimates of alcohol use in a non-randomized mixed mode design. The results suggest that mixed mode survey designs could be effective at reaching certain college sub-populations and improving overall response rate while maintaining valid measurement of alcohol use. Web surveys are gaining popularity in survey research and more work is needed to examine whether these results can extend to web surveys generally or are specific to mixed mode designs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1619-1627
Number of pages9
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
These data were collected under a research grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The authors would like to thank MSI Research for their role in collecting data for the project. We would also like to thank Michele Morales for her comments to an earlier version of this manuscript and Hannah d'Arcy for her assistance with data analyses. Finally, the authors would like to thank the students and school personnel for their participation in the study.


  • Alcohol use
  • College students
  • Mail
  • Survey mode
  • Web


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