Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues. Other Essential Survey Conditions as Sources of Measurement Error

06/01/2002

Any data collection effort involves decisions concerning the features that define the overall design of the survey, here referred to as the essential survey conditions. In addition to the sample design and the wording of individual questions and response options, these decisions include:

  • Whether to use interviewers or to collect information via some form of self-administered questionnaire;
  • The means for selecting and training interviewers (if applicable);
  • The mode of data collection for interviewer administration (telephone versus face to face);
  • The choice of respondent rule, including the extent to which the design permits the reporting of information by proxy respondents;
  • The method of data collection (paper and pencil, computer assisted);
  • The extent to which respondents are encouraged to reference records to respond to factual questions;
  • Whether to contact respondents for a single interview (cross-sectional design) or follow respondents over time (longitudinal or panel design);
  • For longitudinal designs, the frequency and periodicity of measurement;
  • The identification of the organization for whom the data are collected; and
  • The identification of the data collection organization.

No one design or set of design features is clearly superior with respect to overall data quality. For example, as noted, interviewer variance is one source of variability that obviously can be eliminated through the use of a self-administered questionnaire. However, the use of an interviewer may aid in the measurement process by providing the respondent with clarifying information or by probing insufficient responses.

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