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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Improving response rate and quality of survey data with a scratch lottery ticket incentive

Frank Olsen12*, Birgit Abelsen13 and Jan Abel. Olsen1

Author affiliations

1 Institute of Community Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Tromsø, N-9037, Tromsø, Norway

2 Center of Clinical Documentation and Evaluation, Regional Health Authority of Northern Norway, PB 6, N-9038, Tromsø, Norway

3 Northern Research Institute Alta, PB 1463, N-9506, Alta, Norway

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Citation and License

BMC Medical Research Methodology 2012, 12:52  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-12-52

Published: 19 April 2012



The quality of data collected in survey research is usually indicated by the response rate; the representativeness of the sample, and; the rate of completed questions (item-response). In attempting to improve a generally declining response rate in surveys considerable efforts are being made through follow-up mailings and various types of incentives. This study examines effects of including a scratch lottery ticket in the invitation letter to a survey.


Questionnaires concerning oral health were mailed to a random sample of 2,400 adults. A systematically selected half of the sample (1,200 adults) received a questionnaire including a scratch lottery ticket. One reminder without the incentive was sent.


The incentive increased the response rate and improved representativeness by reaching more respondents with lower education. Furthermore, it reduced item nonresponse. The initial incentive had no effect on the propensity to respond after the reminder.


When attempting to improve survey data, three issues become important: response rate, representativeness, and item-response. This study shows that including a scratch lottery ticket in the invitation letter performs well on all the three.

Incentive; Response rate; Survey; Nonresponse error; Item nonresponse