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The silent majority: An examination of nonresponse in college student surveys

Ethan A Kolek, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Nonresponse is a growing problem in surveys of college students and the general population. At present, we have a limited understanding of survey nonresponse in college student populations and therefore the extent to which survey results may be biased. The purpose of this dissertation is to explore three facets of nonresponse in surveys of college students in order to strengthen our empirical and conceptual understanding of this phenomenon. This dissertation seeks to contribute to our understanding of who participates in surveys and who does not, how students experience the process of being asked to complete surveys, and whether or not students’ perspectives about surveys suggest that college student surveys should be conceptualized as organizational surveys. To begin to answer these questions, I conducted three studies—a secondary data analysis that examines student characteristics associated with the odds of completing a survey, a “survey on surveys” study that asks students about their experiences with surveys, and a series of focus groups to understand how students made sense of surveys at their institutions. Taken together, these findings provide a basis for a more developed and nuanced understanding of nonresponse in student surveys. ^

Subject Area

Social research|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Kolek, Ethan A, "The silent majority: An examination of nonresponse in college student surveys" (2012). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3545953.