Response Rates & Representativeness

Responsible Reporting, Part 2

Event Format: 

  • Workshop

Date & Time: 

Thursday, February 20, 2020 - 1:00pm to 2:00pm




Low survey response rates have long plagued those who conduct surveys. Yet, is a survey response rate the only indicator of survey data quality? And does a low(er) response rate always mean that the collected data aren’t useful? In this workshop, we’ll begin to answer these questions by exploring the relationship between survey response rates and survey representativeness. Along the way, we’ll also discuss why all response rates aren’t necessarily equal, why knowing who responds to a survey is as important as knowing how many people respond to a survey, and how to use Excel to quickly calculate whether key groups are well-represented among your survey data.

Laptops are highly recommended.

Learning Outcomes: 

  • Explain the relationship between response rates and representativeness
  • Understand that there are many ways to report a response rate
  • Identify the difference between students and survey respondents
  • Determine whether survey findings are representative or not

Workshop Facilitators: 

Melissa Barnett
Associate Director for Research and Evaluation
MIT Teaching + Learning Lab

Melissa joined TLL’s Research and Evaluation team in 2015. As Associate Director for Evaluation, Melissa analyzes institutional and survey data to answer questions concerning the student experience at MIT. Her interests include: data governance, data visualization, large-scale data management, research design and quantitative & qualitative analytic techniques.

From 2018-19, Melissa led a team of data stewards and data analysts, charged by the Vice Chancellor, to create a process to continue and strengthen cross-office survey coordination, communicate best survey and data practices to the Institute community, further discuss data sharing policies and explore data governance strategies. Data Talks, a data workshop series for staff, developed as a result of the work of this cross-functional team. Melissa leads the Data Talks team.

Prior to MIT, Melissa served as the Research Manager at Harvard College in the Office of Undergraduate Education and as a Research Analyst in the Science Education Department at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. At Harvard College, she led large- and medium-sized program evaluations, while her work at Harvard’s Science Education focused on conducting quantitative analyses of the various effects on student achievement in college calculus. Melissa’s most recent co-authored publications appear in the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education and The High School Journal.

Melissa has taught several undergraduate courses, including Statistics, and Research Methods. Melissa received her Ph.D. from Florida State University and her B.A. from Denison University.