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Study title:

What (Not) to Expect When Surveying Executives : A Meta-Analysis of Top Manager

Response Rates and Techniques Over Time

Author(s) :

Cynthia S. Cycyota and David A. Harrison

Authors’ Affiliation and Background

Dr. Cycyota is an Associate Professor of Management in the Management Department at

the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Her current

research and teaching interests include executive decision making, institutionalism and

entrepreneurial strategies. Dr. Cycyota received her MBA from Wright State University

in Dayton, Ohio with a concentration in finance. She completed her doctoral dissertation

on biotechnology executive decision making at the University of Texas in 2003.

Dr. Harrison is a Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources

Management at Penn State. He earned a Ph.D. in social, organizational, and individual

differences psychology, as well as masters' degrees in psychology and in applied

statistics, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Harrison has

published and presented over 150 articles, book chapters, editorial reviews, monographs,

and papers. His editorial board memberships include Academy of Management Journal,

Personnel Psychology, Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Management,

and Organizational Research Methods.

Source (Journal with Year, volume, number, and Publisher):

Cycyota, C. S.,& Harrison, D. A., 2006. What (Not) to Expect When Surveying

Executives : A Meta-Analysis of Top Manager Response Rates and Techniques Over

Time, Organizational Research Methods, [e-journal] 9(2), pp. 133-160. Avaialable at:

Sage publications.

Research objective / Problem statement

The article takes into account the executive or top management’s response rates of mailed

surveys by the organizational researchers and the main objectives are:

• To find what are the typical response rates that executives’ researchers

have received in the past?

• To investigate trends over time to see if expected response rates are

diminishing and to know if same response rates should be expected in the


• Is there something unique in surveying executives that could be exploited

by researchers or that could provide for more efficient data collection?

Theoretical Background

It is a meta-analysis study which means it combines the results of several previously done

studies that address a set of related current research hypotheses. It is recognized by

researchers worldwide that executives are the most knowledgeable

sources of firm-level information (Norburn & Birley, 1988), and they

might not just be the best but sometimes the only source of getting

information. However, the willingness or ability of these executives to

share such evidence with researchers is of significance importance and

that is what urged the authors to conduct a research on this topic and

to identify and guide techniques which increase the response rates of

the top management of any organization, also there are several

methods suggested to improve response rates from a general

population but not much work has been done for collecting data from

the executives.

Research variables

Independent variable: Mailed surveys

Dependent variable: Response rate

Research propositions / hypotheses

Hypothesis 1: Response rates for mailed surveys in executive populations are declining

(monotonically) over time.

Hypothesis 2: Topic salience will be positively related to response rates from executives.

Hypotheses 3a-d: Inclusion of (a) an incentive, (b) advance notice to executive, (c)

follow-up contact after mail date, and (d) personalization of the survey and cover letter

will increase the likelihood of executive response to mailed surveys.

Hypothesis 4: Prior consent screening of executive samples will generate higher reported

response rates.

Hypothesis 5: Sponsorship (and therefore access) by a member of the executive’s or

firm’s social network will increase the likelihood of response to mailed surveys.

Research Design

As the study engages in explaining the nature of relationships and variance in the

dependent variable, it is a hypothesis testing. The research is purely based on secondary

data i.e. already published articles, sample includes 231 non overlapping articles in which

surveys were mailed to the executives and these articles appeared in top management

journals from 1992 to 2003. Data is gathered once over a period of days or weeks, so it is

a one shot or cross sectional study, extent of researcher interference is minimal to none.

Research is done in the natural environment which makes it a non contrived setting.

Summary & Conclusion: