Skip all navigation and go to page content
NN/LM Home About NER | Contact NER | Feedback |Site Map | Help | Bookmark and Share

Planning Outcomes-Based Outreach Projects

You are invited to join us for our upcoming webinars in a four-part series on Planning & Evaluating Health Information Outreach Projects.

Register on our training calendar.

Planning Outcomes-Based Outreach Projects
Tuesday, December 1st 10:30 – 11:30 AM ET
Come learn how to connect activities to outcomes with a logic model. Participants will have a chance to share ideas for outreach to community partners and get feedback from others.

Collecting and Analyzing Evaluation Data
Thursday, January 14th 10:30 – 11:30 AM ET
The National Network of Libraries of Medicine Outreach Evaluation Resource Center (OERC) leadership will go over the ins and outs of data collection methods. We will learn how to analyze data for quantitative methods and qualitative methods.

Health Information Outreach Project Planning and Evaluation Showcase
Tuesday, April 12th 10:30 – 11:30 AM ET
Share your completed worksheets and activities from the Planning and Evaluating Health Information Outreach Projects booklets. The showcase is open to all NER network members interested to learn more about getting started with community-based outreach, planning outcomes-based outreach projects, and collecting and analyzing evaluation data.

If you missed the first webinar and would like to view the recording, please contact Michelle Eberle at

If you participate in all four sessions of this project, you will receive 8 Medical Library Association Consumer Health Information Specialization credits.  You will only need 4 other credits to qualify for the MLA CHIS Level 1.

This project is led by Margot Malachowski (Baystate Health), Michelle Eberle (NN/LM NER), Cindy Olney (NN/LM OERC), and Karen Vargas (NN/LM OERC) and sponsored by the NN/LM Healthy Communities COI (Community of Interest).

“PubMed for Scientists” – Registration Open for November 12th Webinar

On November 12th, NCBI will present “PubMed for Scientists”, a webinar that will show you how to search biomedical literature more efficiently with PubMed. NCBI staff will teach you how to search by author, explore a subject, use filters to narrow your search, find full text articles, and set up an e-mail alert for new research on your topic. Finally, we will answer your questions about searching PubMed.
Date and time: Thursday, November 12, 2015 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
After the live presentation, the webinar will be uploaded to the NCBI YouTube channel. The webinar and any materials will also be accessible on the Webinars and Courses page by clicking the Archived Webinars & Courses tab. You can also check the Webinars & Courses page to find information about future webinars.

Boosting Response Rates with Invitation Letters

[guest post by Cindy Olney, OERC]

Today’s topic: The humble survey invitation letter.

I used to think of the invitation letter (or email) as a “questionnaire delivery device.”  You needed some way to get the URL to your prospective respondents, and the letter (or, more specifically, the email) was how you distributed the link. The invitation email was always an afterthought, hastily composed after the arduous process of developing the questionnaire itself.

Then I was introduced to Donald Dillman’s “Tailored Design Method” and learned that I needed to take as much care with the letter as I did the questionnaire. A carefully crafted invitation has been proven to boost response rates. And response rate is a key concern when conducting surveys, for reasons clearly articulated in this quote from the American Association of Public Opinion Research:

“A low cooperation or response rate does more damage in rendering a survey’s results questionable than a small sample, because there may be no valid way scientifically of inferring the characteristics of the population represented by the non-respondents.” (AAPOR, Best Practices for Research)

With response rate at stake, we need to pay attention to how we write and send out our invitation emails.

This blog post features my most-used tips for writing invitation emails, all of which are included in Internet, Phone, Mail, and Mixed-Mode Surveys: The Tailored Design Method by Dillman, Smyth, and Christian (2014). Now in its fourth edition, this book is the go-to resource for how to conduct all aspects of the survey process. It is evidence-based, drawing on an extensive body of research literature on survey practice.

Plan for Multiple Contacts

Don’t think “invitation email.”  Think “communication plan,” because Dillman et al. emphasized a need for multiple contacts with participants to elicit good response rates. The book outlines various mailing schedules, but you should plan for a minimum of four contacts:

  • A preliminary email message to let your participants know you will be sending them a questionnaire. (Do not include the questionnaire link)
  • An invitation email with a link to your questionnaire (2-3 days after preliminary letter)
  • A reminder notice, preferably only to those who have not responded (one week after the invitation email)
  • A final reminder notice, also specifically to those who have not responded (one week after the first reminder).

 Tell Them Why Their Feedback Matters

Emphasize how the participants’ feedback will help your organization improve services or programs. This simple request appeals to a common desire among humans to help others. If applicable, emphasize that you need their advice specifically because of their special experience or expertise. It is best to use mail merge to personalize your email messages, so that each participant is personally invited by name to submit their feedback.

If you are contacting people who have a relationships with your organization, such as your library users or members of your organization, play up that relationship. Also, make a commitment to share results with them at a later date. (And be sure to keep that commitment.)

Make Sure They Know Who’s Asking

With phishing and email scams abounding, people are leery about clicking on URLs if an email message seems “off” in any way. Make sure they know they can trust your invitation email and survey link. Take opportunities to publicize your institutional affiliation. Incorporate logos or letterhead into your emails, when possible.

Provide names, email addresses and phone numbers of one or two members of your evaluation team, so participants know who to contact with questions or to authenticate the source of the email request. You may never get a call, but they will feel better about answering questions if you give them convenient access to a member of the project team.

It is also helpful to get a public endorsement of your survey project from someone who is known and trusted by your participants.  You can ask someone influential in your organization to send out your preliminary letter on your behalf. Also you or your champion can publicize your project over social media channels or through organizational newsletters or blogs.

And How You Will Protect Their Information

Be explicit about who will have access to individual-level data and will know how they answered specific questions. Be sure you know the difference between anonymity (where no one knows what any given participant specifically said) and confidentiality (where identifiable comments are seen by a few specific people). You can also let them know how you will protect their identity, but don’t go overboard. Long explanations also can cast doubt on the trustworthiness of your invitation.

Provide Status Updates

While this may seem “so high school,” most of us want to act in a manner consistent with our peer group. So if you casually mention in reminder emails that you are getting great feedback from other respondents, you may motivate the late responders who want to match the behavior of their peers.

Gifts Work Better Than Promises

The research consistently shows that sending a small gift to everyone, with your preliminary or invitation letter, is more effective than promising an incentive to those who complete your questionnaire. If you are bothered by the thought of rewarding those who may never follow through, keep in mind that small tokens (worth $2-3) sent to all participants is the most cost effective practice involving incentives. More expensive gifts are generally no more influential than small gifts when it comes to response rates. Also, cash works better than gift cards or other nonmonetary incentives, even if the cash is of less value.

Beyond Invitation Letters

The emails in your survey projects are good tools for enhancing response rate, but questionnaire design also matters. Visual layout, item order, and wording also influence response rate. While questionnaire design is beyond the scope of today’s post, I recommend The Tailored Design Method to anyone who plans to conduct survey-based evaluation in the near future. The complete source is provided below.

Source: Dillman DA, Smyth JD, and Christian LM. Internet, Phone, Mail, and Mixed-Mode Surveys: The Tailored Design Method, 4th edition. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley; 2014. Results Reporting, Unique Evidence, & the Role of Medical Librarians

The New England Region in collaboration with the Greater Midwest and MidContinental Region are offering the 3 week Moodle course. Results Reporting, Unique Evidence, & the Role of Medical Librarians

Interested in getting Consumer Health Information Specialization or Medical Library Association CE in the comfort of your own home, workplace, or favorite coffeehouse? We’ve got you covered with a 4 credit hour CE online class on Read on for the details:

CLASS: Results Reporting, Unique Evidence, and the Role of Medical Librarians.

This 4 credit hour CE course explains what a clinical trial is and why is a significant resource; demonstrates ways to search and interpret studies with results on; and discusses the unique position of health science and consumer health librarians to provide education and to advocate for the results database and submission requirements.

INSTRUCTORS: Dana Abbey (NN/LM MCR), Holly Burt (NN/LM GMR), Meredith Solomon (NN/LM NER).

COURSE STRUCTURE: This course is self-paced; there are no set class hours for you to attend. The course is divided into 3 weekly modules, beginning the week January 18, 2016. The units build upon one another, with Module 1 providing the foundation for the rest of the course.  Time commitment: plan on an average of 2 hours per week.

Week of January 11, 2016 – set up Moodle account, review class materials, create/update profile, and introduce yourself.

  • Week of January 18, 2016 (Module 1) – will explain what a clinical trial is and why is a significant resource.
  • Week of January 25, 2016 (Module 2) – will demonstrate ways to search and interpret studies with results from
  • Week of February 1, 2016 (Module 3) – will discuss the number of records with results and the unique position of health science librarians to provide education and to advocate for the results database and submission requirements.

MLA CE CREDIT AND/OR CHIS CE CREDIT: This course has been certified for 4 contact hours of Medical Library Association (MLA) CE credit. If you are taking this course for MLA CE, there are specific requirements to satisfy the 4-hour instruction requirement. The coursework also provides everything you need to for Level 1 or II CHIS – the Consumer Health Information Specialization from MLA. For information on CHIS ( For information on MLA CE (

REGISTRATION: Registration is open to NN/LM MidContinental, Greater Midwest, and New England Region Network members. Space is limited, so register at Not sure if your library is a Network member, or do you want to become a Network member? Contact Dana Abbey – MCR (, Holly Burt – GMR (, or Meredith Solomon – NER (

COST: No charge for online class.

QUESTIONS: Please contact Dana Abbey (, Holly Burt (, or Meredith Solomon (

Please visit WP-Admin > Options > Snap Shots and enter the Snap Shots key. How to find your key