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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 34  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 210-211
 

Editorial Comment: Questionnaire survey-based research: Is there a need for consensus?


Professor of Surgical Uro-Oncology and Chair of Urology, Head of Division of Cancer Research and Lead for Prostate Cancer Surgery, Ninewells Hospital, University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, UK

Date of Web Publication29-Jun-2018

Correspondence Address:
Ghulam Nabi
Professor of Surgical Uro-Oncology and Chair of Urology, Head of Division of Cancer Research and Lead for Prostate Cancer Surgery, Ninewells Hospital, University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland
UK
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/iju.IJU_162_18

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How to cite this article:
Nabi G. Editorial Comment: Questionnaire survey-based research: Is there a need for consensus?. Indian J Urol 2018;34:210-1

How to cite this URL:
Nabi G. Editorial Comment: Questionnaire survey-based research: Is there a need for consensus?. Indian J Urol [serial online] 2018 [cited 2019 Aug 25];34:210-1. Available from: http://www.indianjurol.com/text.asp?2018/34/3/210/235527


Research based on questionnaire surveys has become an attractive method of gathering data in scientific studies and an increasing trend has been seen recently in clinical medicine. It is a quick and cost-effective way of assessing a particular practice and the variation in its adoption across disciplines. The quality, rigor, and scientific standards of formulating instruments (questionnaires) to conduct surveys for obtaining information vary. There is a need to have agreed guidelines. First, the design of questionnaires should have inherent methods of validation. The validity of questionnaire is an essential element as it provides assurance that information gathered is robust and conclusions drawn are reliable.[1],[2] The steps of validation, including pilot testing, should bring to the fore final scientific punctilious details.[3] Second, research studies should also reflect attempts to improve response rate to questionnaire-based surveys.[4] It is disheartening to see a poor response rate after significant efforts have been put into a well-designed research study. Underlying reasons for poor response are often lack of motivation or time constraints that may differ depending on the study population selected and questionnaires used. The Association of Medical Education in Europe has produced a document enlisting strategies to address some of the issues of poor response rate;[5] however, this can further be tailored to specialty-specific or research question-oriented way of addressing a nonresponse bias. Contacting participants before, or after, sending them questionnaires, personalizing invitation letters, incentivizing responses, interval reminders, and keeping questionnaires short and punchy are some of the well-described strategies,[6] and these should reflect in survey studies to provide a measure of confidence in research conclusions.

Should there be a restriction on publication of low-response rate questionnaire-based research? If yes, what should be the target response rate? The Journal of the American Medical Association is explicit in its policy and states “Survey studies should have sufficient response rates (generally at least 60 percent) and appropriate characterization of nonresponders to ensure that nonresponse bias does not threaten the validity of the findings.”[7] Similarly, The Office of Management and Budget responsible for funding of survey protocols in the USA clarifies in their statement as “submit a plan for a nonresponse bias analysis if the expected unit response rate is below 80% (see Section 3.2.9).”[7]

This may sound stringent and perhaps too fixated on response rate, but an equally important emphasis has been placed on plans for a nonresponse bias analysis and this should be the focus of scientific publications.[7] Regardless of response rate, a plan of handling nonresponse bias before and after administration of survey questionnaires should be part of submission to journals for publication as a quality assurance to health-care policy makers and medical practitioners. Halbesleben and Whitman [8] have described a framework to achieve this and it should be a basis for further implementation of this practice.

 
   References Top

1.
Grogan S, Conner M, Norman P, Willits D, Porter I. Validation of a questionnaire measuring patient satisfaction with general practitioner services. Qual Health Care 2000;9:210-5.  Back to cited text no. 1
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2.
Boynton PM, Greenhalgh T. Selecting, designing, and developing your questionnaire. BMJ 2004;328:1312-5.  Back to cited text no. 2
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3.
Kelley K, Clark B, Brown V, Sitzia J. Good practice in the conduct and reporting of survey research. Int J Qual Health Care 2003;15:261-6.  Back to cited text no. 3
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4.
Nakash RA, Hutton JL, Jørstad-Stein EC, Gates S, Lamb SE. Maximising response to postal questionnaires – A systematic review of randomised trials in health research. BMC Med Res Methodol 2006;6:5.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Phillips AW, Reddy S, Durning SJ. Improving response rates and evaluating nonresponse bias in surveys: AMEE guide No. 102. Med Teach 2016;38:217-28.  Back to cited text no. 5
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6.
Edwards P, Roberts I, Clarke M, DiGuiseppi C, Pratap S, Wentz R, et al. Increasing response rates to postal questionnaires: Systematic review. BMJ 2002;324:1183.  Back to cited text no. 6
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7.
Davern M. Nonresponse rates are a problematic indicator of nonresponse bias in survey research. Health Serv Res 2013;48:905-12.  Back to cited text no. 7
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8.
Halbesleben JR, Whitman MV. Evaluating survey quality in health services research: A decision framework for assessing nonresponse bias. Health Serv Res 2013;48:913-30.  Back to cited text no. 8
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