Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. James R. Sanders

Second Advisor

Dr. Christine Bahr

Third Advisor

Dr. Zoe Barley

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Arlen Gullickson


Electronic mail is becoming increasingly popular as a means to communicate information expediently and inexpensively. One use of electronic mail that has not been well researched is its viability as a tool for data collection. A handful of studies have focused on the differences that exist in responses and response rates of electronic mail surveying compared to other methods of surveying (telephone and postal mail). One area that has not been studied at all is the factors affecting the response rates of electronic mail surveys.

This research study sought to build upon the existing research base of what is known about using electronic mail surveys as a data collection tool. The purpose of the study was to examine various factors, which may be related to response rate for the electronic mail survey Specifically, the effects of prenotification, personalization of cover letters, and follow-up were the variables studied. Additionally examined was whether there are differences in surveying by regular mail and electronic mail in terms of response rate, time to respond, and the survey responses.

A sample of 528 faculty and staff members from Western Michigan University was selected to take part in the study. The sample was divided into several treatment groups to study each of the independent variables: electronic prenotification message prior to electronic survey; personally addressed cover letter and electronic mail survey; generically addressed cover letter and electronic mail survey; no follow-up letter and survey for nonrespondents; follow -up letter and survey for nonrespondents; and personalized regular postal mail survey.

Follow-up w as the variable that most influenced the response rate of the electronic mail survey. Only about one fourth of the sample that did not receive follow-up responded and over 50% o f the sample that did receive follow-up responded. Personalized regular mail surveys received a higher response rate than did electronic mail surveys (67% vs. 51%). Electronic m ail surveys w ith precorrespondence and personalization coupled with follow-up produced no differences in response rates when compared to the personalized regular mail survey. Electronic mail surveys were completed and returned on average at a faster rate than regular mail surveys (3 days vs 15 days).

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access