Health surveys using questionnaires facilitate the acquisition of information on the knowledge, behaviour, attitudes, perceptions and clinical history of a selected population. Their internal and external validities are threatened by poor design and low response rates. Numerous studies have investigated survey design and administration but care should be taken when generalising findings in different clinical and cultural settings. The current evidence-base suggests that no single mode of survey administration, such as postal, electronic or telephone, is superior to another. Whilst there is no evidence of an ideal response rate relationship to survey validity, response rates can be enhanced by including monetary incentives, providing a time cue, and repeat contact with non-responders. Unlike other modes of experimental data collection, few guidelines currently exist for survey and questionnaire design and response rate should not be considered a direct measure of a survey's quality.