Enclosing a pen in a postal questionnaire follow-up to increase response rate: a study within a trial

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BACKGROUND: Poor response rates to follow-up questionnaires can adversely affect the progress of a randomised controlled trial and the validity of its results. This embedded 'study within a trial' aimed to investigate the impact of including a pen with the postal 3-month questionnaire completed by the trial participants on the response rates to this questionnaire.

METHODS: This study was a two-armed randomised controlled trial nested in the Gentle Years Yoga (GYY) trial. Participants in the intervention group of the GYY trial were allocated 1:1 using simple randomisation to either receive a pen (intervention) or no pen with their 3-month questionnaire (control). The primary outcome was the proportion of participants sent a 3-month questionnaire who returned it. Secondary outcomes were time taken to return the questionnaire, proportion of participants sent a reminder to return the questionnaire, and completeness of the questionnaire. Binary outcomes were analysed using logistic regression, time to return by Cox Proportional hazards regression and number of items completed by linear regression.

RESULTS: There were 111 participants randomised to the pen group and 118 to the no pen group who were sent a 3-month questionnaire. There was no evidence of a difference in return rates between the two groups (pen 107 (96.4%), no pen 117 (99.2%); OR 0.23, 95% CI 0.02 to 2.19, p=0.20). Furthermore, there was no evidence of a difference between the two groups in terms of time to return the questionnaire (HR 0.90, 95% CI 0.69 to 1.18, p=0.47), the proportion of participants sent a reminder (OR 0.85, 95% CI 0.48 to 1.53, p=0.60) nor the number of items completed (mean difference 0.51, 95% CI-0.04 to 1.06, p=0.07).

CONCLUSION: The inclusion of a pen with the postal 3-month follow-up questionnaire did not have a statistically significant effect on response rate.

Original languageEnglish
Article number53
Number of pages11
JournalNIHR Open Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 31 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

[version 1; peer review: 2 approved]
© 2022 Fairhurst C et al.

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