Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Medical Research Methodology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Strategies for achieving a high response rate in a home interview survey

Kirsty Kiezebrink1, Iain K Crombie2*, Linda Irvine2, Vivien Swanson3, Kevin Power4, Wendy L Wrieden5 and Peter W Slane6

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Health and Food Sciences, School of Contemporary Sciences University of Abertay, Bell Street, Dundee, UK

2 Department of Public Health, University of Dundee, Mackenzie Building, Kirsty Semple Way, Dundee, UK

3 Department of Psychology, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK

4 Department of Clinical Psychology, Dudhope Terrace, Dundee, UK

5 Health Services Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, Health Sciences Building, Aberdeen, UK

6 Erskine Practice, Arthurstone Medical Centre, Dundee, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Medical Research Methodology 2009, 9:46  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-9-46

Published: 30 June 2009



Response rates in surveys have been falling over the last 20 years, leading to the need for novel approaches to enhance recruitment. This study describes strategies used to maximise recruitment to a home interview survey of mothers with young children living in areas of high deprivation.


Mothers of two year old children received a letter from their GP inviting them to take part in a survey on diet. Participants were subsequently recruited by a researcher. The researcher first tried to contact potential participants by telephone, to discuss the study and make an appointment to conduct a home interview. Where telephone numbers for women could not be obtained from GP records, web searches of publicly available databases were conducted. After obtaining correct telephone numbers, up to six attempts were made to establish contact by telephone. If this was unsuccessful, a postal request for telephone contact was made. Where no telephone contact was achieved, the researcher sent up to two appointments by post to conduct a home interview.


Participating GPs invited 372 women to take part in a home based interview study. GP practices provided telephone numbers for 162 women, of which 134 were valid numbers. The researcher identified a further 187 numbers from electronic directories. Further searches of GP records by practice staff yielded another 38 telephone numbers. Thus, telephone numbers were obtained for 99% of potential participants.

The recruitment rate from telephone contacts was 77%. Most of the gain was achieved within four calls. For the remaining women, contact by post and home visits resulted in 18 further interviews, corresponding to 35% of the women not recruited by telephone. The final interview rate was 82%. This was possible because personal contact was established with 95% of potential participants.


This study achieved a high response rate in a hard to reach group. This was mainly achieved by first establishing contact by telephone. The use of multiple sources identified the telephone numbers of almost all the sample. Multiple attempts at telephone contact followed by postal approaches led to a high home interview rate.