U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

MAIL AND TELEPHONE SURVEYS - THE TOTAL DESIGN METHOD

NCJ Number
59541
Author(s)
D A DILLMAN
Date Published
1978
Length
341 pages
Annotation
THE TOTAL DESIGN METHOD (TDM) APPROACH TO MAIL AND TELEPHONE SURVEYING, DESCRIBED IN DETAIL FOR PROFESSIONAL RESEARCHERS, IS BASED ON THE PREMISE THAT MAXIMUM RESPONSE REQUIRES ADMINISTRATIVE THOROUGHNESS.
Abstract
THIS 'HOW TO' VOLUME BEGINS WITH A NOTE ON WHY AN ALTERNATIVE TO FACE-TO-FACE INTERVIEWS AND TRADITIONAL MAIL AND TELEPHONE SURVEYS IS NEEDED (THE FORMER ARE TOO EXPENSIVE AND REQUIRE USE OF HIGHLY TRAINED INTERVIEWERS ABLE TO COVER A LARGE AMOUNT OF TERRITORY AND THE LATTER ARE IMPEDED BY THEIR NEED TO BE BRIEF AND BY AN UNCERTAIN RESPONSE RATE). THEN THE TDM APPROACH IS OUTLINED IN ITS TWO PARTS: (1) IDENTIFICATION OF EACH ASPECT OF THE SURVEY PROCESS THAT AFFECTS RESPONSE QUALITY OR QUANTITY AND (2) ORGANIZATION OF SURVEY EFFORTS SO THAT THE DESIGN INTENTIONS ARE CARRIED OUT IN COMPLETE DETAIL. TDM USES THE THEORY OF SOCIAL EXCHANGE TO EXPLAIN RESPONSE MOTIVATION. IT PUTS FORTH THREE RULES FOR SUCCESSFUL SURVEYING: MINIMIZE COSTS FOR RESPONDING, MAXIMIZE REWARDS FOR RESPONDING, AND ESTABLISH TRUST THAT THE REWARDS WILL BE DELIVERED. QUESTION WRITING SHOULD ELICIT DESIRED INFORMATION AND AVOID VAGUENESS, BIAS, AND OFFENSIVENESS. MAIL QUESTIONNAIRES SHOULD BE IN BOOKLET FORM, BEGIN WITH THE MOST SOCIALLY USEFUL QUESTIONS, GROUP SIMILAR TOPICS, ESTABLISH A VERTICAL FLOW, AND HAVE ATTRACTIVE COVERS TO CREATE POSITIVE FIRST IMPRESSIONS. ENVELOPE AND ADDRESSING SHOULD EMPHASIZE PERSONALIZATION. SLIGHTLY MORE COMPLEX, TELEPHONE SURVEYS MUST MEET NEEDS OF THREE AUDIENCES: RESPONDENTS, INTERVIEWERS, AND CODERS. OVERLY LONG QUESTIONS AND COMPLEX RESPONSE CATEGORIES SHOULD BE AVOIDED. THE FIRST FEW QUESTION'S PHRASING AND CONTENT SHOULD BE VERY CAREFULLY DESIGNED TO ORIENT AND INTEREST THE RESPONDENT. SAMPLING METHODS, ADVANCE LETTERS, INTERVIEWER TRAINING AND SUPERVISION, SCHEDULING, FINAL PREPARATIONS AND COMPUTER NEEDS MUST ALL RECEIVE CLOSE ATTENTION. ALTHOUGH RESULTS FROM 48 SURVEYS USING TDM SHOWED A MINIMUM RESPONSE RATE OF 50 PERCENT AND AN AVERAGE RESPONSE RATE OF 74 PERCENT, RESEARCH ON EFFECTIVENESS OF SPECIFIC ASPECTS OF TDM, AND FURTHER MODIFICATIONS TO IMPROVE ITS EFFECTIVENESS, ARE NEEDED. TABLES, CASE EXAMPLES, ILLUSTRATIONS, AND AN EXTENSIVE REFERENCE BIBLIOGRAPHY ARE INCLUDED. (CFW)