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Paper of the week: using Post-It notes to increase survey responses

17th Dec 2013

The paper we would like to highlight this week is a great example of how research can be transferred into practice.

Garner (2005) tested the impact of attaching a Post-it note with a hand-written request to survey materials. The study found that the note roughly doubled response rates (76%, compared to 36% with no Post-it note). In addition, using a Post-it note increased the quality and timeliness of survey responses.

The Irish Revenue has now transferred this finding into practice – and crucially they have tested the results in a randomised controlled trial. Of 2,000 businesses, 1,700 were randomly assigned to receive a survey questionnaire and a covering letter. 300 randomly assigned businesses were sent the same materials, but with a short personalised handwritten post-it note attached to the questionnaire.

After 15 working days, response rates were 36% for the trial group and 19.2% for the control group (p < 0.001). In other words, the Post-it note roughly doubled response rates (see graph below), with the biggest impact occurring just after the request was received.

Post-it note trial

Irish Revenue (2013) Survey of Small and Medium Sized Business Customers 2013.

Garner, R. (2005) Post-it note persuasion: A sticky influence. Journal of Consumer Psychology 15:3, 230-237.

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