Postal surveys versus electronic mail surveys: The tortoise and the hare revisited

Brian E. Mavis, Joseph J. Brocato

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


The advent of computer-based technology has led to a consideration of change in research methods that exploit the advantages of computer-mediated communications. In survey research, electronic mail (e-mail) has anecdotally shown particular promise as a data collection tool. This article compares traditional postal and nontraditional e-mail surveys within the context of a larger listserv evaluation project in terms of overall return rate, distribution of survey returns over time, response to initial and follow-up mailings, representativeness of respondent groups, thoroughness of survey completion, and the likelihood of respondents to include additional written comments. In summary, whereas postal surveys were shown to be superior to e- mail surveys with regard to response rate, all things being equal, the decision of which to use may be situation-specific, dependent on issues such as survey cost, desire for convenience and timeliness in data collection, and need for higher response rates, among others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-408
Number of pages14
JournalEvaluation and the Health Professions
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998

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