Introductory scripts are the “first impression” of a telephone survey. A clear and concise introduction can make the difference in reducing refusals and getting a good response rate.

Drawing of a questionnaireMost refusals occur very early in the survey process; therefore it is critical that the first two or three sentences of the introductory script effectively hold the respondent’s interest long enough for them to consider participating in the survey. Researchers must take special care to ensure that the introductory script effectively communicates to respondents not only the purpose of the study, but also reasons why they should volunteer their time. The introductory script should provide the following information:

  • Identity of ownership (research team or organization for whom call is
  • being made)
  • Purpose and importance of survey
  • Survey length (tells respondents how long they should expect to be on
  • the phone)  

Once the respondent has agreed to continue, it is important to provide further information to the respondent to ensure informed consent. This Ethics and Consent section should include the following information:

  • Confidentiality assurance (encourages them to provide honest
  • feedback)
  • Voluntary nature of response  
  • Ethics clearance (if applicable)


Ownership – gets respondent’s attention

The increasing use of surveys to the general public, along with endless approaches by telemarketers, have made the public more wary and less inclined to participate in any telephone survey, regardless of its purpose. This, coupled with advances in technology such as call display, makes it more difficult than ever to reach potential respondents. Even when they are contacted, respondents may be reluctant to participate due to any number of reasons. These reasons may include not wanting their line being tied up, resentment over the disruption in routines or the invasion of their privacy, current unavailability, or their suspicion that the survey may be nothing more than a guise for a sales call.

Stating the ownership of the survey helps overcome these obstacles by providing immediate assurance that the survey is legitimate and not an attempt to sell something. It is important to emphasize that the survey is being done for research by a well‐respected university.

Purpose and Importance – explains relevance of survey

The likelihood of acceptance is increased when respondents are told early why the survey is being conducted and thus why they should volunteer their time to participate in it. A case for the survey’s importance to research and possible social applications can almost always be made. The introductory script must state why the survey is being conducted and how the data collected will be used.

Survey Length –sets time expectations

Disclosure of survey length can be a significant factor in survey acceptance. The shorter the survey, the more likely someone is to agree to participate. The longer the survey, the greater the reluctance and the more likely they are to abandon the survey in mid‐interview.  Be honest about the length; respondents resent being told to expect a 5 minute survey that turns into 15 minutes.

Ethics and Informed Consent:

Confidentiality – encourages honest participation

Participation means very little if respondents are concerned about who sees their answers and how they are used.  Interviewers must provide assurances of confidentiality and anonymity. These statements encourage both participation and honesty by assuring respondents they can speak without worrying about reprisal.  This must be especially emphasized for recruited surveys, making sure respondents know their responses will not be individually identified and reported to recruiting organization.

Voluntary Responses – removes sense of coercion

Interviewers must provide assurances that response to the survey or any of the individual questions is voluntary.  Respondents should not feel that they must respond to every question regardless of comfort level or appropriateness.  Again, for recruited surveys, assurances must be made that any responses made will not impact on their relationship to the recruiting organization.

Ethics Clearance – reassurance of legitimacy and outside agency

Depending on the type of study, ethics approval is important.  For example, for some University of Waterloo surveys, researchers are required to provide participants with assurance that the survey has received clearance from the Office of Research Ethics.  For those surveys, participants should also be provided with contact information for the Office of Research Ethics in case of concern. Ethics clearance reminds participants that the survey is a legitimate research study that is being overseen by the university.

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Partnership with Institutional Analysis & Planning

The Survey Research Centre has partnered with Institutional Analysis & Planning (IAP) to develop and administer several campus-wide surveys to students, alumni, faculty, and staff.

The Student Experience Survey, the first survey administered through this partnership, aims to understand students' perceptions of their academic and non-academic learning environments and their experience at the University of Waterloo. These topics are explored through questions engaging students in subject matter about their general well-being, perceived efficacy of various instructional modalities and learning supports, and opinions on various strategic initiatives.

Read more about the Student Experience Survey on the IAP website: