Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of brjgenpracRCGP homepageJ R Coll Gen Pract at PubMed CentralBJGP at RCGPBJGP at RCGP
Br J Gen Pract. 1998 March; 48(428): 1067–1069.
PMCID: PMC1410021

'So much post, so busy with practice--so, no time!': a telephone survey of general practitioners' reasons for not participating in postal questionnaire surveys.


BACKGROUND: Response rates by general practitioners (GPs) to postal surveys have consistently fallen, compromising the validity of this type of research. If postal survey work is to continue we need to understand GPs' reasons for not participating and respond appropriately. AIM: To investigate GPs' reasons for not responding to postal surveys. METHOD: A qualitative study was carried out to determine GPs reasons for not participating in postal surveys, which were drawn from a telephone survey of 276 non-responders to a postal questionnaire survey. Practitioners' comments were recorded and reasons for their non-response quantified using content analysis. RESULTS: Primary reasons for GPs not replying to the postal survey were that questionnaires had got lost in paperwork (34%), that GPs were too busy for the extra work involved (21%), and that questionnaires were routinely 'binned' (16%). Higher practice workloads, including increased administration, meant that participation in research had become a low priority. GPs provided some suggestions for researchers that would increase their chances of questionnaires being returned. CONCLUSIONS: Researchers need to be aware of the pressures of service general practice and to rationalize the amount of research material sent to GPs. GPs were most likely to respond to postal surveys that had a high interest factor, that involved localized research relevant to general practice, and that incorporated a personalized approach by researchers, including good-quality explanatory information.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (647K), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Cartwright A. Professionals as responders: variations in and effects of response rates to questionnaires, 1961-77. Br Med J. 1978 Nov 18;2(6149):1419–1421. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Myerson S. Improving the response rates in primary care research. Some methods used in a survey on stress in general practice since the new contract (1990). Fam Pract. 1993 Sep;10(3):342–346. [PubMed]
  • McAvoy BR, Kaner EF. General practice postal surveys: a questionnaire too far? BMJ. 1996 Sep 21;313(7059):732–734. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Templeton L, Deehan A, Taylor C, Drummond C, Strang J. Surveying general practitioners: does a low response rate matter? Br J Gen Pract. 1997 Feb;47(415):91–94. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Sibbald B, Addington-Hall J, Brenneman D, Freeling P. Telephone versus postal surveys of general practitioners: methodological considerations. Br J Gen Pract. 1994 Jul;44(384):297–300. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Ward J. General practitioners' experience of research. Fam Pract. 1994 Dec;11(4):418–423. [PubMed]
  • Deehan A, Templeton L, Taylor C, Drummond C, Strang J. The effect of cash and other financial inducements on the response rate of general practitioners in a national postal study. Br J Gen Pract. 1997 Feb;47(415):87–90. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • MacPherson I, Bisset A. Not another questionnaire!: eliciting the views of general practitioners. Fam Pract. 1995 Sep;12(3):335–338. [PubMed]
  • Olsen ND. Sustaining general practice. BMJ. 1996 Mar 2;312(7030):525–526. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from The British Journal of General Practice are provided here courtesy of Royal College of General Practitioners