Open Access

Response Burden – Review and Conceptual Framework


Concerns about the burden that surveys place on respondents have a long history in the survey field. This article reviews existing conceptualizations and measurements of response burden in the survey literature. Instead of conceptualizing response burden as a one-time overall outcome, we expand the conceptual framework of response burden by positing response burden as reflecting a continuous evaluation of the requirements imposed on respondents throughout the survey process. We specifically distinguish response burden at three time points: initial burden at the time of the survey request, cumulative burden that respondents experience after starting the interview, and continuous burden for those asked to participate in a later round of interviews in a longitudinal setting. At each time point, survey and question features affect response burden. In addition, respondent characteristics can affect response burden directly, or they can moderate or mediate the relationship between survey and question characteristics and the end perception of burden. Our conceptual framework reflects the dynamic and complex interactive nature of response burden at different time points over the course of a survey. We show how this framework can be used to explain conflicting empirical findings and guide methodological research.

Publication timeframe:
4 times per year
Journal Subjects:
Mathematics, Probability and Statistics