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Library Philosophy and Practice 2007

ISSN 1522-0222

A Better Response Rate for Questionnaires: Attitudes of Librarians in Nigerian University Libraries

Dr. Esharenana E. Adomi

Blessing T. Ayo

Department of Library and Information Science

Dr. E. D. Nakpodia
Department of Educational Administration and Policy Studies

Delta State University
Abraka, Nigeria



Questionnaires encompass a variety of instruments designed to enable the subject responds to written questions to elicit reactions, beliefs, and attitudes (McMillan and Schumacher, 1989). Questionnaire is a set of questions relating to the aim of the study and the hypotheses to be tested to which the respondent/subject is expected to answer in writing. The information to be generated through the use of the questionnaire could be about the feelings, beliefs, experiences or attitudes of the respondents or some other persons the information may as well be about things other than the persons (Okobia, 1998). Questionnaires can gather data from a large group relatively inexpensively, and may be a workable way to assemble a statistically significant pool of subjects (Questionnaire design, n.d.).

Response rate is a crucial factor in evaluating the reliability of survey results (StatPac Inc, 2005). In Nigeria, even highly-literate people are reluctant to answer questionnaires. They view the researcher as conducting research to enrich him- or herself in knowledge, status, or wealth, while the questionnaire is a burden on the subjects. The researcher may wait endlessly to receive enough replies before beginning data analysis (Ofo, 1994).

This study is a survey of the attitudes of librarians in Nigerian university libraries towards questionnaire completion. Its findings will give researchers, scholars, and professionals insight into how subjects react to questionnaires. This will help them increase the response rate as well as quality of data.


Questionnaires were used to collect data from 57 librarians in three Nigerian university libraries: 22 librarians from Ambrose Alli University Library, Ekpoma, 24 from Delta State University Library, Abraka, and 11 from University of Benin Library, Benin City.

In order to ensure that relevant items were included in the questionnaire an extensive literature review literature was done and the questionnaire was given to experts in research methods to read and correct. The data was analysed to find frequencies.

Findings and discussion

There were 31 (54.4%) male respondents and 24 female. Two respondents did not indicate their sex.

Table 1: Working experience
Years of experience No %
1-5 years 8 14.0
6-10 years 9 15.8
11-15 years 13 22.8
16-20 years 8 14.0
21-25 years 2 3.5
More than 25 years 15 26.3
No response 2 3.1
n = 57

Most respondents have worked for more than five years. A majority of them have worked long enough to be acquainted with the topic under investigation and must have received and completed a number of questionnaires during their careers.

Table 2: Number of questionnaires received per year
Number received No %
Below 6 12 21.1
6-10 18 31.6
11-15 7 12.3
16-20 3 5.3
Above 20 13 22.8
No response 4 7.0
n = 57

Most (18, 36.6%) respondents receive 6-10 questionnaires a year, followed by those who receive more than 20 (13, 22.8%). The relatively high number could be due to the fact that the respondents work in institutions where postgraduate students, as well as students who are in their graduating year, are expected to write projects, dissertations, or theses. Most of these use questionnaires to collect data. Some students turn to the librarians for data. Another reason may be that some lecturers also administer questionnaires to librarians for their research.

Table 3: Number of questionnaires completed per year
Number completed No %
Below 6 17 29.8
6-10 31 54.4
11-15 10 17.5
16-20 5 18.5
Above 20 24 42.1
No response 2 3.1
n = 57

A majority of the respondents (31, 54.4%) complete 6-10 questionnaires per year, followed by those who complete more than 20.

Table 4. Response to questionnaires
Options No %
Yes 45 79.9
No 9 15.8
No response 3 5.3
n = 57

Respondents were asked if they respond to all questionnaires they receive. Most (45, 79.9%) respond to all questionnaires they receive from researchers. A majority of the respondents probably understand the purpose of the questionnaire and cooperate with researchers.

Table 5: Reasons for responding to all questionnaires
Reasons No %
To assist the researchers 31 68.9
It enables me contribute to knowledge 28 62.2
The outcome of the research will be beneficial to me/the profession/mankind 23 51.1
It is part of my professional obligation/obligatory 10 22.2
The questions/items are interesting 4 8.9
n = 45

Those who respond to all questionnaires were asked to indicate their reasons for doing so. Assisting researchers ranks first with (31, 68.9%).

Table 6: Reasons for not responding to all questionnaires
Reasons No %
Lack of time 5 55.6
Topics/items are not interesting/relevant 5 55.6
It is not obligatory 4 44.4
Lack of reminders/follow-up by researchers 4 44.4
Some questionnaires are too lengthy 3 33.3
Forgetfulness 1 11.1
Some questionnaires ask questions that are too personal 1 11.1
I am not sure my responses will be kept secret 1 1.11
n = 9

While sending a large number of questionnaires to subjects is laborious, there are small details that can improve response rate (Boynton, 2004). "Lack of time" was the most common reason why some respondents do not complete all questionnaires. "Topics are not interesting/relevant" was also a common response. In constructing questionnaires, researcher should ask whether each question is necessary. Unneeded questions create work for the researcher and can harm response rate (Wikipedia,2006).

"Lack of reminders/follow-up by researchers" attracted 4 (44.4%) responses. Follow-ups or reminders are a valuable tool for increasing response rates. Only 10 to 60 percent of those sent questionnaires respond without follow-ups. The need to follow-up on non-respondents to increase response rates is clear (StatPac, 2005).

Table 7: People and groups who send questionnaires
Category of people No %
Library and information science (LIS) students 46 80.7
Librarians/information professionals 28 49.1
Other students (non LIS) 23 40.4
Library and information science lecturers 22 38.6
Other lecturers (non LIS) 19 33.3
Institutions/organisations 15 26.3
Other professionals (non LIS) 13 22.8

Library and information science students rank first (46, 80.7%) as the group that respondents receive questionnaires from, followed by LIS professionals. In Nigeria, library and information professionals who work in academic libraries have academic status and must publish before they can be promoted.

That LIS (22, 38.6%) and non-LIS (19, 33.3%) teachers administer questionnaires is not unexpected, since most academics have a publication requirement (Adomi & Mordi, 2003). Questionnaire administration is required before some publications can be done.

Table 8: Means through which questionnaires are received
Means No %
Through personal contacts 47 82
By post 10 17.5
Via e-mail 6 10.5
Websites 2 3.5
n = 57

A majority of respondents indicate personal contacts as the means through which researchers administer questionnaires to them. Most researchers prefer to personally administer questionnaires to respondents, probably because they can retrieve them as soon as they are completed. It also provides an opportunity to answer questions. The response rate may also be higher than through other means of administering a questionnaire.

Table 9: General views about questionnaire completion
Views No %
It enables me to contribute to knowledge 39 68.4
I am always happy to complete questionnaires 15 26.3
It is boring to complete questionnaires 13 22.8
It is time-wasting 7 12.3
n = 57

Table 9 reveals the general views respondents hold on questionnaire completion. Most of them 39 (68.4%) see questionnaire completion as opportunity to contribute to knowledge.

Table 10: Problems militating against respondents questionnaire completion
Problems No %
Some questionnaires are too lengthy 29 50.9
Some questionnaires are not relevant to my field 22 38.6
Some questionnaires are not interesting/appealing 13 22.8
Too personal questions asked 10 17.5
Poorly constructed question 10 17.5
The language of some questionnaires are to high/inappropriate/technical 10 17.5
Some mail questionnaires are not accompanied with stamps and return envelopes 7 12.3
I am not sure my responses will be kept in secret 4 7.0
Reputation of the researcher/organisation 4 7.0
Relative importance of the study 2 3.5
n = 57

Many things compete for the staff time. It is not surprising that a majority of the respondents 29 (50.9%) see lengthy questionnaires as a problem. Questionnaires that are simple, straightforward, and not too long will increase response rate. Seven (12.3%) respondents cite mailed questionnaires that are not accompanied by return stamped envelopes as a problem. It is unethical for a researcher not to make provision for return of a mailed questionnaire by providing stamped return envelopes.


Questionnaires are a crucial method of gathering data for research and publication. They are a common and accepted means for scholars to seek answers to research questions. This study surveyed attitudes of librarians towards questionnaire completion in Nigerian university libraries. Although respondents receive several questionnaires each year, not all of them respond to all instruments, mostly because of lack of time. Most of those who do respond to all questionnaires do so because of the need to assist researchers. LIS students and LIS professionals are the two main groups who send questionnaires to librarians. Most questionnaires the respondents receive are those that are personally administered. Questionnaires that are too long or that are not relevant to the recipient's field some of the problems that militate against completion. In the light survey results, it is recommended that:

  • Professional associations and library administration should organize periodic workshops/conferences on answering questionnaires so that the staff can understand the nature and importance of questionnaires for research
  • Researchers should be conversant with relevant literature on questionnaire construction and administration to enable them construct good questionnaires and also administer them in a way that will enhance response rate.


Adomi, E.E., & Mordi, C. (2003). Publication in foreign journals and promotion of academics in Nigeria.Learned Publishing16(4), pp.259-263.

Boynton, P.M. (2004). Administering, analyzing, and reporting your questionnaire.http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/328/7452/1372. (Retrieved January 1, 2006)

McMillan, J.H., & Schumacher, S. (1989). Research in education: A conceptual introduction. 2nd. ed. Glenview, Ill.: Scott, Foresman.

Ofo, J.E. (1994). Research methods and statistics in education and social science. Lagos : Joja Educational Research and Publishers.

Okobia, D.O. (1998). Methods of data collection in research. In J.F. Egbule & D.O. Okobia,Research methods in education for colleges and universities(pp. 106-126). Onitsha : Kmensuo Educational publishers.

Questionnaire design (n.d.).http://www.cc.gatech.edu/classes/cs6751_97_winter/Topics/quest-design/ (accessed 6 January, 2006)

StatPac Inc. (2005). Response rate and following up on nonrespondents.http://www.statpac.com/surveys/response-rate.htm(accessed 25 May 2006)



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