The Use Of Surveys In Research Practices In The Arab World: An Empirical Investigation Of Questionnaire Quality And Strategies To Increase Response Rates

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Gary Miron, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jessaca Spybrook, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Maha Alamoud, Ph.D.


Animate invitation, Arab countries, content analysis, experimental design, response rates, survey research


Surveys are among the most extensively used research methods worldwide. Despite that, survey research in the Arab world is still not well established. The effect of a poorly designed instrument goes beyond impacting the response rates; it affects the inferences made out of the data, resulting in low research quality and credibility. This three-paper dissertation tackles this problem from three angles: (i) it assesses the quality of preexisting Arabic surveys used in research, (ii) it experiments with the effectiveness of survey invitation strategies to elevate response rates, and (iii) it tests the suitability of some Western survey research guidelines in the Arab context and their impact on response rates. A content analysis was employed in the first paper with a sample of 83 dissertations, while an experimental design was used in the second and third papers with a sample of 4,419 university students.

The findings of the first study indicate that the quality of the Arabic surveys was relatively poor. Specifically, most survey research guidelines related to visual presentation were not followed, and the poor quality and complexity of the surveys negatively affected response rates. The study also found that the higher the university ranking, the higher the quality of surveys used in dissertation research. The second study found that using a traditional survey invitation increased response rates more than using an animated invitation. Using an authoritative title for the invitation increased the odds of initiating a survey, especially if combined with an animated invitation. The study also found that survey nonresponse might be linked to the survey’s quality. The third study examined the visual aspects of a survey. The findings suggest that the placement of demographic data at the beginning of a survey increases the response rates compared to placement toward the end of the survey. No significant impact on response rate was detected when using different font types, sizes, or background colors. However, respondents receiving surveys with blue background spent less time to complete a survey compared to surveys with pink or white backgrounds. The study also found that the interaction between background color and gender did not affect the response rate, specifically surveys with pink background did not receive a higher response rate from females compared to surveys with blue backgrounds filled out by males.

Specific recommendations to increase the quality of survey instruments and improve response rates include the following: (i) use panels of experts to review the content and design of the survey instruments; (ii) develop proper open-ended questions; (iii) avoid using complicated questions such as matrices and double-barreled questions; and (iv) pay more attention to the visual aspects. It is expected that the three studies that comprise this dissertation will help establish a foundation for future research. It is also hope that the findings from this dissertation will help to improve the quality of questionnaires and increasing response rates in the Arab world.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

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