Social Measurement through Social Surveys: An Applied Approach


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First Published Imprint Routledge. Pages pages. Back to book. By Eric Harrison.

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Pages As will be illustrated below, some calendar instruments are completed by the interviewer, while others are filled in by the respondents themselves. However, it has been used in personal interviews as well as in CATI situations. Freedman and her colleagues administered almost half of their LHC-interviews via the telephone, in which case the calendar was not visible to the respondent. Unfortunately, the authors do not elaborate on these results.


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Given their earlier assumption that the respondent uses the calendar as a-visual recall aid, one would expect the instrument to be less beneficial to data quality during a telephone interview. Next to these paper-and-pencil calendar instruments, computerized versions of calendar methods have been evaluated Belli ; Wiebe and Landis Similar to paper-and-pencil calendars, the computerized instruments are used in personal interviews as well as with CATI applications.

The instrument is used for collecting data about a relatively short reference period of 2 years previous to the survey. Instead of using interviewer-administered calendar instruments, some questionnaires include calendars, which are completed by the respondents themselves.

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These calendars can be part of either paper-and-pencil questionnaires Martyn and Martin , or they can be used as visual recall aids during personal Van der Vaart or telephone interviews Van der Vaart and Glasner In the latter study, the calendar instrument was mailed to respondents prior to the interview. In the advance letter and the accompanying written instruction respondents were asked to fill out the simplified life history calendar, which spanned a period of over 7 years. During the telephone interview, respondents would use the calendar as a visual recall aid.

So far, we are not aware of any computerized calendar instruments, which are self-completed by respondents. This is likely to be due to the fact that the current computerized versions, are quite complicated to fill out, and cannot be used without training. Nonetheless, at least one electronic EHC is currently used as a separate recall aid in a self-administered survey Wiebe and Landis Before the interview, interviewer and respondent fill out the EHC together.

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From what is known so far about the relative effectiveness of these different calendar applications, it cannot be concluded that one mode of data collection is more suitable for using calendar applications than others. It is also not obvious if those instruments work better as recall aides or as data collection devices. There are some indications that respondents might be more motivated to make active use of the calendar if they can see the instrument during the interview. This suggestion is based on the observation that respondents prefer calendar techniques to regular question-list surveys in personal interviews Freedman et al.

Inconsistencies in the account could be detected by the interviewer or by the respondent himself. The respondent could then correct his original account.

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It facilitated recall for distinct events, by displaying those events as part of a sequence. This supposedly lead to a reduction of omissions. It improved timing of recalled events by allowing the respondent to relate events and dates from different life domains to each other.

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The expected positive effects of calendar methods on completeness, consistency, recall and timing—as well as the implied effective mechanisms of the calendar—are main issues in evaluations of calendar methods. Many have also included more general observations about the data collection process, such as experiences with different modes of data collection see previous section , respondent-interviewer rapport, and consequences for the duration of the interview.

Our review of the methodological literature reveals that the quality of the data collected with calendar instruments has been evaluated in multiple ways. The studies can be grouped into three categories:.

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Comparisons of calendar data with similar data collected with more traditional questionnaires in a split-ballot or otherwise , but without the availability of an external standard of comparison Becker and Diop-Sidibe ; Becker and Sosa ; Engel et al. Studies in which the agreement between data collected with a calendar instrument and external data sources is measured, but no comparisons are made with regular questionnaires.

Experimental studies, which combine the two approaches. Here, the authors assess the agreement between calendar data and external data, and also include a control condition, in which a traditional questionnaire is used Belli et al. The focus of the first group of studies is mainly restricted to indirect measures of data quality, in particular consistency of the data based on logical arguments e.

Since these studies do not include an external standard of comparison, they cannot provide direct evidence for the superiority of calendar data in terms of accuracy. However, as will be illustrated below, they do provide some indications that the calendar method overall performs better in collecting recall data than the traditional question-list. A split-ballot comparison between a calendar method and a traditional questionnaire in a fertility study Becker and Sosa indicated that the use of the calendar resulted in more consistent reports.

It demonstrated that the calendar method resulted in less superposition of supposedly mutually exclusive behaviors: significantly less overlap of advanced pregnancy and contraception use was reported in the calendar condition 1. Also supporting positive calendar effects, an interaction was found between the recency of the behavior and the effect of the calendar Goldman et al.

Goldman and her colleagues note that the calendar instrument was especially effective in enhancing recall of contraceptive use in the beginning of the reference period. A similar effect was found in a study of domestic violence victimization Yoshihama et al. The results indicate that higher lifetime victimization rates in the calendar condition were caused by the fact that more respondents reported incidents, which took place in the distant past. Studies that evaluated retrospective data in terms of completeness mostly concluded that the calendar method performs better than the traditional question-list.

Overall, calendars appear to result in higher numbers of reported events and episodes, which is usually interpreted as a positive effect Becker and Sosa ; Engel et al. Regarding the heaping of reported event dates—which occurs when respondents report prototypical values e. In an experimental evaluation Goldman et al. While in the traditional questionnaire condition a disproportionate number of women rounded durations to prototypical values of 6, 12, 24, 36, and 48months of use, this hardly occurred in the calendar condition.

It should be noted however, that this difference was probably enhanced by the coding protocol. While in the questionnaire condition, interviewers could record durations in either months or years; in the calendar condition, interviewers were instructed to always code durations in months. The second and third group of studies focus on direct assessments of agreement between the recalled information and the external information: in particular concerning the number of events, their characteristics and the duration or dates of events.

It can be argued that comparisons of the latter type are an assessment of test-retest reliability rather than of validity Dex Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to assume that the amount of error is smaller in concurrent than in retrospective reports, since the former are less affected by memory bias.

As illustrated below, the results of these both types of studies generally suggest that the calendar method has beneficial effects on data quality. While non-experimental agreement studies do not compare the performance of the calendar method to the performance of other methods, they do give an indication of the quality of calendar data. In this line, Rosenberg et al. The mean duration of the reference period was 33months. High levels of data quality were also reported in non-experimental longitudinal studies.

In their evaluation of calendar questionnaires Hoppin et al.

A more detailed study of test-retest reliability of the calendar method—the time between the interviews being eight to fourteen months—resulted in very high agreement for reported life event anchors such as marriages, or immigration Engel et al. Freedman et al. In the wave, a calendar instrument was used.

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Part-time school attendance was remembered less well than either full-time attendance or no attendance. Responses about work in were less consistent. The general tendency to underreport unemployment in retrospective surveys was not fully compensated for by the calendar. Thus, several life course studies that applied event history calendars report relatively high correspondence between retrospective calendar data and matching responses or collateral reports obtained beforehand. Similar results are found in small-scale medical studies on health timelines e.

Although these results suggest positive effects of the calendar procedures on recall accuracy, they lack an experimental design: since there is no control condition, it has not been demonstrated whether these results would have been different in a study without aided recall procedures. Only three studies so far Belli et al. The authors conducted split-ballot experiments in which they used calendar instruments in one condition and traditional questionnaires in the other condition. Van der Vaart and Glasner used purchase records as validation data. Given the relevance of these studies we will discuss their results in detail below.

The calendar was tested in a field experiment on educational careers during the second wave of a longitudinal social survey, comparing the retrospective reports with reports during the first wave four years before the recall period was 4—8 years. As compared to the regular questionnaire procedure, adding the calendar enhanced data quality with respect to the number of educational courses followed, the starting year of the courses, and the entire sequence of types of courses taken.

Although the calendar reduced recall error in the dates of courses, it did so for absolute error only: it did not affect telescoping i. The calendar was shown to be most effective if respondents had to perform relatively difficult retrieval tasks in terms of recency, saliency, and frequency of the target behaviour e.

Comparable results were found by Belli et al. All interviews in this study were conducted via telephone in Respondents were asked for retrospective reports on the number and the duration of events that occurred in The quality of the reports using either a calendar—that was visible to the interviewer only—or a question-list, was assessed using data from the same respondents collected one year earlier on events in No differences in data quality were found regarding the number of persons leaving the residence, whether having received children aid and whether having received food stamps. Regarding four out of six continuous measures the calendar method led to significantly higher correlations with the reports than the question-list.

In spite of the effects on correlations, hardly any differences in mean errors were found between both conditions. Finally, the experimental record check study by Van der Vaart and Glasner generally confirmed the findings of both field experiments presented above. In this study a calendar was employed as a visual aid for respondents in a telephone survey. Unlike most calendar instruments used in the social sciences, this calendar aimed to enhance the recall of singular events the purchase of pairs of glasses instead of episodes.

Hardly any effects could be established regarding the number of purchases due to a lack of variation in this measure. Regarding both the price and the date of the purchase this study demonstrated that:. The calendar had positive effects on recall accuracy, although it did not affect telescoping net error in dates ;.

A more difficult recall task—in terms of the saliency and recency—led to greater recall errors;. As will be discussed in more detail below, a downside of this procedure was that the response rate in the calendar condition was quite low. Sending respondents the calendar instrument beforehand probably increased the risk of refusal. Overall the results of these experimental studies—that compared the calendar method and the question-list method by using external validating data—are mixed but quite promising.


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They demonstrated that the calendar method exerted positive effects on recall accuracy for different types of data and never led to worse data quality. While calendar applications may have beneficial effects on data quality, it is also important to judge their operational costs in terms of interview time, data entry, interviewer training, and so forth, and the effects on sampling.

Regarding these issues several potential disadvantages of the use of calendar instruments emerged from the literature. One rather consistent finding is that calendar instruments take longer to administer than traditional questionnaires. Engel et al. In a study in which the calendar was used as a recall aid, the face-to-face interviews on average took 12min longer in the calendar condition, the mean length of all interviews being about 2 h Van der Vaart When a similar calendar application was sent to respondents beforehand and subsequently the interview was held by telephone, the interview took only marginally longer than in the control condition without calendar Van der Vaart and Glasner The same applied to relatively simple calendar instruments for recording fertility-related events Becker and Sosa ; Goldman et al.

It must be noted, however, that in at least one of the studies, reference periods differed significantly between instruments, probably leading to an under-estimate of duration of the calendar interview. While a CATI calendar application did not increase total interviewing time, data entry did take significantly longer than for regular questionnaires Belli et al. Freedman and her colleagues made a similar observation and noted that their calendar data was more difficult and expensive to code than a conventional questionnaire..

Although it seems plausible that calendar methods would require more interviewer training than standardized question-lists, this finding did not emerge from the few studies that report about this issue. The extra amount of interviewer training required for administering calendar instruments varies widely by study. Some studies report that interviewers, who had to use a calendar received the same amount of training as interviewers, who administered the traditional questionnaire Belli et al. However, other authors state that training time was tripled compared to earlier waves of their survey, when no calendar instruments were used Freedman et al.

It seems to depend very much on the individual study, how much extra training is required in order to make sure that the interview is administered properly. Routledge eBooks are available through VitalSource. Most VitalSource eBooks are available in a reflowable EPUB format which allows you to resize text to suit you and enables other accessibility features. Where the content of the eBook requires a specific layout, or contains maths or other special characters, the eBook will be available in PDF PBK format, which cannot be reflowed.

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Social Measurement through Social Surveys: An Applied Approach Social Measurement through Social Surveys: An Applied Approach
Social Measurement through Social Surveys: An Applied Approach Social Measurement through Social Surveys: An Applied Approach
Social Measurement through Social Surveys: An Applied Approach Social Measurement through Social Surveys: An Applied Approach
Social Measurement through Social Surveys: An Applied Approach Social Measurement through Social Surveys: An Applied Approach
Social Measurement through Social Surveys: An Applied Approach Social Measurement through Social Surveys: An Applied Approach
Social Measurement through Social Surveys: An Applied Approach Social Measurement through Social Surveys: An Applied Approach
Social Measurement through Social Surveys: An Applied Approach Social Measurement through Social Surveys: An Applied Approach
Social Measurement through Social Surveys: An Applied Approach Social Measurement through Social Surveys: An Applied Approach
Social Measurement through Social Surveys: An Applied Approach

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