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).

Publications from FORS concerning methodological research

Recent scientific publications of FORS researchers
Sequentially mixing modes in an election survey. Lipps Oliver, Pekari Nicolas, 2021/05/18. Survey Methods: Insights from the Field. Peer-reviewed. [URN][serval:BIB_E795D2CD150A]

Transforming a Patient Registry Into a Customized Data Set for the Advanced Statistical Analysis of Health Risk Factors and for Medication-Related Hospitalization Research: Retrospective Hospital Patient Registry Study. Taushanov Z., Verloo H., Wernli B., Di Giovanni S., von Gunten A., Pereira F., 2021/05/11. JMIR medical informatics, 9 (5) pp. e24205. Peer-reviewed. [DOI][WoS][Pmid][serval:BIB_23E7F1CBEE88]

Integrating online data collection in a household panel study: effects on second-wave participation. Voorpostel Marieke, Roberts Caroline, Ghoorbin Margarita, 2021. Survey Methods: Insights from the Field. [DOI][serval:BIB_5A25D1757E21]

The European Values Study 2017: On the Way to the Future Using Mixed-Modes. Luijkx Ruud, Jónsdóttir Guðbjörg Andrea, Gummer Tobias, Ernst Stähli Michèle, Frederiksen Morten, Ketola Kimmo, Reeskens Tim, Brislinger Evelyn, Christmann Pablo, Gunnarsson Stefán Þór et al., 2020/11/24. European Sociological Review. Peer-reviewed. [URN][DOI][serval:BIB_44A99FABE750]

Investigating the Relative Impact of Different Sources of Measurement Non-Equivalence in Comparative Surveys. An Illustration with Scale Format, Data Collection Mode and Cross-National Variations Roberts Caroline, Sarrasin Oriane, Ernst Stähli Michèle, 2020/10/10. Survey Research Methods, 14 (4) pp. 399-415. Peer-reviewed. [URN][DOI][serval:BIB_424A8E8E756E]

A cross-validation of R-indicators as a measure of the risk of bias using data from a non-response follow-up survey. Roberts C., Vandenplas C., Herzing J. M. E., 2020/07/28. Journal of Official Statistics, 36 (3) pp. 675–701. Peer-reviewed. [URN][DOI][serval:BIB_EA0D21AB221D]

Model‐based clustering and analysis of life history data. Scott Marc A., Mohan Kaushik, Gauthier Jacques-Antoine, 2020/05/23. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society), 183 (3) pp. 1231–1251. [DOI][WoS][serval:BIB_63E2D591D61E]

Can Interviewer Evaluations Predict Short-Term and Long-Term Participation in Telephone Panels? Lipps Oliver, Voorpostel Marieke, 2020/03/01. Journal of Official Statistics, 36 (1) pp. 117-136. Peer-reviewed. [URN][DOI][serval:BIB_565DBE25A0B3]

Investigation of alternative interface designs for long-list questions–the case of a computer-assisted survey in Germany. Herzing Jessica M. E., 2020/02/04. International Journal of Social Research Methodology pp. 1-12. Peer-reviewed. [URN][DOI][serval:BIB_565E200A3B73]


For all scientific publications by FORS collaborators see here.

Papers from the FORS Working Paper Series
Sequentially mixing modes in an election survey
Oliver Lipps and Nicolas Pekari

Introducing web in a refreshment sample of the Swiss Household Panel: Main findings from a pilot study
Marieke Voorpostel, Ursina Kuhn, Robin Tillmann, Gian-Andrea Monsch, Erika Antal, Valérie-Anne Ryser, Florence Lebert, Hannah S. Klaas and Nora Dasoki

Effects of topic distribution and topic importance on interest and follow-up response
Oliver Lipps and Alexandre Pollien

Item nonresponse and fuzzy logic
Georg P. Müller

A research note on the potential impact of panel attrition on the relationship between variables
Marieke Voorpostel, Martina Rothenbühler, Caroline Roberts and Caroline Vandenplas

Material deprivation from 1999 to 2013 in Switzerland: How index construction impacts on measured patterns of evolution
Pascale Gazareth and Katia Iglesias

The impact of assortative mating on income inequality in Switzerland
Ursina Kuhn and Laura Ravazzini

A methodological journey towards integrating a gender perspective into the measurement of violence against women and intimate partner violence
Julien Chevillard, Lavinia Gianettoni, and Véronique Jaquier

Who are my people? Strengths and limitations of ego-centered network analysis: A case illustration from the Family tiMes survey
Gaëlle Aeby

Psychometric properties of extra-short Big Five personality measures in multi-topic surveys: Documenting personality traits in the SHP and MOSAiCH
Valérie-Anne Ryser

An evaluation of the CASP-12 scale used in the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) to measure Quality of Life among people aged 50+
Carmen Borrat-Besson, Valérie-Anne Ryser and Judite Gonçalves

Non-observation bias in an address-register-based CATI/CAPI mixed mode survey
Oliver Lipps

A different version of this paper has meanwhile been published as :
Lipps, O. (2016). Non-observation bias in an address-register-based CATI/CAPI mixed mode survey.
Methods, Data, Analyses 10(1): 5-24. DOI: 10.12758/mda.2016.001.

Robustness of items within and across surveys
Caroline Vandenplas and Oliver Lipps

A Versatile tool? Applying the Cross-national Error Source Typology (CNEST) to triangulated pre-test data
Rory Fitzgerald, Lizzy Winstone and Yvette Prestage

Learning, understanding, and motivation effects on “don’t know” in panel surveys
Oliver Lipps

The Swiss Rolling Cross-Section Study : Design, field work, and data quality
Georg Lutz, Thomas de Rocchi and Nicolas Pekari

Mode and incentive effects in an individual register frame based Swiss election study
Oliver Lipps and Nicolas Pekari

A different version of this paper has meanwhile been published as :
Lipps, O., & Pekari, N. (2016). Sample Representation and Substantive Outcomes Using Web With and Without Incentives Compared to Telephone in an Election Survey. Journal of Official Statistics, 32(1), 165-186.

Coverage and nonresponse errors in an individual register frame based Swiss telephone election study
Oliver Lipps, Nicolas Pekari and Caroline Roberts

A different version of this paper has meanwhile been published as :
Lipps, O., Pekari, N., & Roberts, C. (2015). Undercoverage and Nonresponse in a List-sampled Telephone Election Survey. Survey Research Methods, 9(2), 71-82.

Using the Swiss population register for research into survey methodology
Caroline Roberts, Oliver Lipps and Kathrin Kissau

Satisficing and language proficiency 
Brian Kleiner, Oliver Lipps and Eliane Ferrez

A different version of this paper has meanwhile been published as :
Kleiner, B., Lipps, O., & Ferrez, E. (2015). Language Ability and Motivation Among Foreigners in Survey Responding. Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology, 3(3), 339-360.

Predictability of reasons for refusal in telephone surveys
Oliver Lipps

A different version of this paper has meanwhile been published as :
Lipps, O. (2012). Using information from telephone panel surveys to predict reasons for refusal. Methoden – Daten – Analysen 6 (1) : 3-20.

Dialect-driven adaptation : Experiences from Switzerland
Isabelle Renschler, Brian Kleiner, and Martina Bichsel

A different version of this paper has meanwhile been published as :
Renschler, I., & Kleiner, B. (2013). Considering Dialect in Survey Research. Bulletin of Sociological Methodology/Bulletin de Méthodologie Sociologique, 118(1), 51-59.

Contact time optimization in panel surveys
Oliver Lipps

A different version of this paper has been published as :
Lipps, O. (2012). A Note on improving Contact Times in Panel Surveys. Field Methods 24 (1) : 95-111.

Income imputation in the Swiss Household Panel 1999-2007
Oliver Lipps

Innovations and new technologies in panel research
Annette Scherpenzeel

This working paper combines parts of three other publications by the same author :

Scherpenzeel, A. & Das, J.W.M. (2010). ’True’ longitudinal and probability-based internet panels : Evidence from the Netherlands. In : Das, J.W.M. ; Ester, P. ; Kaczmirek, L. (Ed.) Social and Behavioral Research and the Internet : Advances in Applied Methods and Research Strategies.

Scherpenzeel, A. & Bethlehem, J. (2010). How representative are online-panels ? Problems of coverage and selection and possible solutions. In Social Research and the Internet : Advances in applied Methods and New Research Strategies. Eds. M.Das, P.Ester & L.Kaczmirek. New York : Routlegde Academic.

Scherpenzeel, A., & Toepoel, V. (2012). Recruiting a Probability Sample for an Online Panel : Effects of Contact Mode, Incentives, and Information. Public Opinion Quarterly, 76(3), 470-490.

Papers on survey methods in the FORS Guides

Mobile web surveys (FORS Guide N°01), Jessica M.E. Herzing

Measurement of income in surveys (FORS Guide N°02), Ursina Kuhn

Refusal conversion (FORS Guide N°04), Marieke Voorpostel

Surveying national minorities (FORS Guide N°06), Jessica M.E. Herzing, Guy Elcheroth, Oliver Lipps, Brian Kleiner

Incentives in surveys (FORS Guide N°08), Oliver Lipps, Jessica M.E. Herzing, Nicolas Pekari, Michèle Ernst Stähli, Alexandre Pollien, Gisana Riedo, Maud Reveilhac

Measurement of social position in surveys (FORS Guide N°10), Robin Tillmann

Measuring party affiliation (FORS Guide N°12), Georg Lutz, Lukas Lauener

Preparation of survey data (FORS Guide N°13), Alexandre Pollien, Jessica M. E. Herzing, Erika Antal

Panel surveys: advantages and disadvantages compared with repeated cross-sectional surveys (FORS Guide N°14), Oliver Lipps

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 the FORS Guides series that are hands-on guides to survey methods and data management. Further, FORS organises the joint seminar series Methods and research meetings in collaboration with the University of Lausanne.