The effects of electronic alert letters for internet surveys of academic scientists

Ashlee Frandell, Mary K. Feeney, Timothy P. Johnson, Eric W. Welch, Lesley Michalegko, Heyjie Jung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Survey alert letters improve response rates and assure potential respondents that the research is legitimate and of high quality. Pre-notification by mail increases response rates for web surveys because it represents a second mode of communication and contributes to increases in respondent trust and study legitimacy. Due to work-from-home orders in response to COVID-19, postal alert letters are unlikely to reach research participants at their place of employment. We conducted three experiments testing the effects of sending academic scientists a pre-notification email message on web survey response rates as compared to no alert email message and variation in the timing of the pre-notification. The data comes from three random national samples of university-based scientists that were conducted during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two of three experiments suggest that email alert pre-notifications can have a minor effect on improving response rates to web surveys of academic scientists. The timing of those pre-notification messages, though, had no effect on survey response. These findings indicate pre-notification messages remain useful when studying academic scientists. Future research should compare the effects of electronic as compared to postal pre-notification on survey response among scientists, as postal pre-notification requires extensive resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7167-7181
Number of pages15
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Alert letters
  • Pre-notification
  • Response rate
  • Survey research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences


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