Methodological research

Methodological research is crucial to the understanding of current and future challenges of data collection in social science. Together with the sharing of methodological expertise and offering teaching and consulting services to researchers in Switzerland and abroad, methodological research is an essential element of the FORS mandate.

Objectives of methodological research at FORS

Methodological research at FORS focuses on the following aspects of data collection:

Evaluation of past and current practices in the field of data collection
We focus on survey errors, which harm substantive research in that they have an impact on measures of association. We investigate whether current practices, such as incentives or nonresponse follow-ups, translate into higher quality, with the goal of identifying the most significant cost and error trade-offs. Examples include the evaluation of…

  • coverage challenges and the impact of unit nonresponse and attrition;
  • representation and reported data quality of minority groups;
  • factors that influence measurement errors;
  • interviewer effects on different forms of survey error;
  • challenges of conducting surveys in a multilingual context regarding measurement errors.

Optimisation of data collection designs to reduce survey costs and improve representativity
In our surveys, we investigate effects of switching and optimizing modes on response propensity and measurement errors. One focus is the optimal delivery format for long surveys of the general population, including various tools for web-based surveys. This research is often based on an experimental design, whereby a conventional design and new designs are applied in parallel within the same survey. For example, we…

  • research the effectiveness of different modes of data collection and fieldwork methods;
  • develop customised data collection strategies for different subgroups;
  • identify paradata correlated with response propensities and key survey variables to enable the monitoring of bias throughout the fieldwork phase;
  • investigate threats to the continuity of time series due to changes in the survey design.

Preparation for the long-term future of data collection
We search for alternatives to surveys, focusing on what technological, social, cultural or political developments we need to prepare for. One focus is the enhancement of survey data using auxiliary data, for example by linking records or using big data. Research relating the long-term future focuses on…

  • the exploration of new technologies for the collection of survey data and the development of best practices;
  • the exploration of opportunities to enrich FORS data by linking records and context variables;
  • staying up-to-date on alternatives to probability-based sample surveys and on other developments in social science research, such as the use of non-probability-based surveys or collecting data via social networks (big data).

Recent publications from FORS concerning methodological research

Scientific publications of FORS researchers
Adjustment for nonresponse with variables from different sources: Bias correction and precision loss, with application to the Swiss European Social Survey 2012, Vandenplas Caroline, Ernst Stähli Michèle, Joye Dominique, Pollien Alexandre, 2017/05/23. Mathematical Population Study, 24 (4) pp. 103-125. Peer-reviewed. [DOI]

Gender of Interviewer Effects in a multi-topic centralized CATI Panel Survey, Lipps Oliver, Lutz Georg, 2017/02/01. methods, data, analyses, 11 (1) pp. 67-86. Peer-reviewed. [DOI]

Modeling Cooperation in an Address-register-based Telephone/Face-to-face Survey, Lipps O., 2016/11. Field Methods, 28 (4) pp. 396-414. Peer-reviewed. [DOI]

Attrition when dropping CAPI from a CATI/CAPI panel survey, Lipps O., Lebert F., 2016/07. Survey Practice, 9 (2) pp. 1-5. Peer-reviewed.

Incentives as a Possible Measure to Increase Response Rates, Ernst Stähli Michèle, Joye Dominique, 2016/07. pp. 425-440 in Wolf Christof, Joye Dominique, Smith Tom W., Fu Yang-chih (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Survey Methodology chap. 28, SAGE.

Non-Observation Bias in an Address-Register-Based CATI/CAPI Mixed Mode Survey, Lipps O., 2016/05. methods, data, analyses, 10 (1) pp. 5-24. Peer-reviewed. [DOI]

Sample Representation and Substantive Outcomes Using Web With and Without Incentives Compared to Telephone in an Election Survey, Lipps O., Pekari N., 2016/03. Journal of Official Statistics, 32(1) pp.165-186. Peer-reviewed. [DOI]

Attrition in the Swiss Household Panel: are vulnerable groups more affected than others ?, Rothenbühler M., Voorpostel M., 2016. pp. 221-242 in Oris M., Roberts C., Joye D., Ernst-Staehli M. (eds.) Surveying human vulnerabilities across the life course chap. 10, Springer. [DOI]

How to survey displaced workers in Switzerland: Ways of addressing sources of bias, Baumann I., Lipps O., Oesch D., Vandenplas C., 2016. pp. 159-176 in Oris M., Roberts C., Joye D., Ernst Staehli M. (eds.) Surveying human vulnerabilities across the life course chap. 7, Springer. [DOI]

Mixing modes of data collection in Swiss social surveys: Methodological report of the LIVES-FORS mixed mode experiment, Roberts Caroline, Joye Dominique, Ernst Stähli Michèle, 2016. LIVES Working Papers, 48 pp. 1-42. Peer-reviewed. [DOI]

Representation of Vulnerability and the Elderly: A Total Survey Error Perspective on the VLV Survey, Oris M., Guichard E., Nicolet M., Gabriel R., Tholomier A., Monnot C., Fagot D., Joye D., 2016. pp. 27-64 dans Oris M., Roberts C., Joye D., Ernst Stähli M.(eds.) Surveying Human Vulnerabilities Across the Life Course chap. 2, Heidelberg: Springer. [DOI]

Surveying human vulnerabilities across the life course, Oris Michel, Roberts Caroline, Joye Dominique, Ernst Staehli Michèle (eds.), 2016., 1 Life Course Research and Social Policies, 3 242, Springer. [DOI]

Surveying human vulnerabilities across the life course: Balancing substantive and methodological challenges, Oris Michel, Roberts Caroline, Joye Dominique, Ernst Staehli Michèle, 2016. pp. 1-25 dans Oris Michel, Roberts Caroline, Joye Dominique, Ernst Staehli Michèle(eds.) Surveying human vulnerabilities across the life course chap. 1, Springer. [DOI]

The Swiss Household Panel Study: Observing social change since 1999, Tillmann R., Voorpostel M., Kuhn U., Lebert F., Ryser V.-A., Lipps O., Wernli B., Antal E., 2016/01. Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, 7 (1) pp. 64-78. [DOI]

Psychometric properties of extra-short Big Five personality measures in multi-topic surveys: Documenting personality traits in the SHP and MOSAiCH, Ryser V.-A, 2015/11. (5), Université de Lausanne, FORS.

Quality criteria for sociology? What sociologists can learn from the project developing and testing research quality criteria in the humanities, Ochsner Michael, Hug Sven E., Tobias Wolbring, 2015/09. SOCIOLOGIA E POLITICHE SOCIALI 2 pp. 90-110. [DOI]

Undercoverage and Nonresponse in a List-sampled Telephone Election Survey, Lipps O., Pekari N., Roberts C., 2015/08. Survey Research Methods, 9 (2) pp. 71-82. Peer-reviewed. [DOI]

Language Ability and Motivation among Foreigners in Survey Responding, Kleiner B., Lipps O., Ferrez E., 2015/06. Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology, 3 (3) pp. 339-360. Peer-reviewed. [DOI]

Identifying Pertinent Variables for Nonresponse Follow-Up Surveys: Lessons Learned from 4 Cases in Switzerland, Vandenplas Caroline, Joye Dominique, Ernst Stähli Michèle, Pollien Alexandre, 2015. Survey Research Methods, 9 (3) pp. 141-158. Peer-reviewed. [DOI]

Contributions to blogs, newspapers and other non-scientific media
Vergleich der Datenqualität von Opt-in Panels und zufallsgesteuerten Umfragen (only available in German). Nicolas Pekari, Oliver Lipps, Caroline Roberts, Georg Lutz, 02.2018. Methoden-Newsletter vsms.

Dissemination of methodological knowledge

In order to support the dissemination of methodological knowledge, FORS edits the online journal Survey methods: Insights from the field together with GESIS (Germany) and PUMA (Austria), and organises the joint seminar series Methods and research meetings in collaboration with the University of Lausanne.