Selected questionnaire size and color combinations were significantly related to mailed survey response rates

Timothy J. Beebe, Sarah M. Stoner, Kari J. Anderson, Arthur R. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine the degree to which mailed survey response rates, response times, and nonresponse bias are affected by questionnaire size and color. Study Design and Setting: Questionnaires were mailed to a random sample of 2,000 Mayo Clinic patients in one of four size/color "test" groups. One thousand three hundred nine surveys were completed, approximately two-thirds in each group. Results: A small (61/8 × 81/4 in) questionnaire booklet on white paper had a higher response rate (68.4%) than a similarly sized questionnaire on blue paper (62.3%). A large (81/4 × 11 in) questionnaire on white paper had a 62.7% rate, whereas a large, blue questionnaire had a response rate of 68.6%. Median response times did not differ by questionnaire size/color. No evidence of differential nonresponse bias was observed across the four test groups. Conclusion: This study supports the use of a small/white questionnaire format advocated by the Total Design Method advanced by Don Dillman at Washington State University. We observed a favorable response rate for a large questionnaire printed on blue paper; however, if time and resources are limited, use of a small/white questionnaire appears preferable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1184-1189
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The project described was supported by internal Mayo Foundation funds. The contents of this paper are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mayo Clinic. The authors express their gratitude to Dr. David Herman for his support of this project and Ms. Ann Harris for her assistance with the questionnaire design component of this study. We especially appreciate the dedicated work of the Mayo Clinic Survey Research Center staff and the contributions of all the Mayo Clinic patients who participated in the study. We also thank the editor and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


  • Mail surveys
  • Paper color
  • Questionnaire size
  • Response bias
  • Response rate
  • Survey methods


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