A Content Analysis of Advance Letters from Expenditure Surveys of Seven Countries
In a comparative content analysis of seven survey advance letters, the content of these letters is evaluated relative to six social-psychological principles of compliance and one helping tendency. The content of an advance letter can be described in terms of twelve different topics, divided over three categories (background information, benefits and costs), and the presentation of the content can be judged according to the seven principles. The relation between the twelve topics and the seven principles is represented in matrix form.
Content analysis of these letters showed that only a limited number of topics and principles are mentioned. In most letters the main topics are the objectives of the survey, the direct benefits to the respondent and guarantees of the anonymity of the data provided. Of course, all letters mentioned the survey organization. In most cases the request to participate in the survey was formulated by appealing to reciprocation (remuneration), authority (mostly enforcement through reputation or prestige) and a general helping norm.
Content analysis is useful early in the process of determining the content of an advance letter. The development and use of a framework of content categories which are related to compliance principles make the design task easier. The interpretation and evaluation of the letter, however, require further research and should be explored by other means, e.g., by indepth interviews.
Advance letters; expenditure survey; content analysis.