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Many social scientists use data obtained in large international surveys and pay for data obtained through survey research organisation (SRO). The quality of survey data for any questionnaire is a function of the respondents, the interviewers, and the employees of the SRO. I will show that task simplification dynamics can occur at each of these levels and the effect of such task simplifications reduced quality of the data. The precise form of task simplification differs at the three levels. For respondents it might take the form of utilizing only specific parts of the available response options; for interviewers it can take the form of asking primarily the demographic questions and fabricating plausible responses for the remainder; for interviewers and employees of SROs it can take the form of near-duplication of entire questionnaires. I analyse well-known cross-national surveys such as the European Social Survey to document various task simplification (and time saving) techniques with special emphasis on interviewers. The procedures to identify suspect interviewers will be explained, and procedures to identify fraudulent interviewers already during the field-period will be discussed.
Keywords: data fabrication, interviewer effects, cross-national comparisons, response styles, task simplifications.
Jörg Blasius is Professor of Sociology at the Institute for Political Science and Sociology, University of Bonn, Germany. He is one of the editors of the Sage Series “Survey Research Methods in the Social Sciences”. From 1998 to 2016, he belonged to the Board of RC33 (Research Committee on Logic and Methodology in Sociology) of the ISA (International Sociological Association), from 2006 to 2010 he served as President. His research interests include methods of social research, applied statistics (especially correspondence analysis and related methods), methods for assessing the quality of survey data (including data fabrication), urban sociology (especially gentrification and distressed neighborhoods), lifestyles, and political sociology. He gave numerous courses on correspondence analysis and related methods, in addition to several courses held at the Summer Schools in Essex, Lugano, Cologne (spring seminar), and St. Gallen, he gave courses in various countries, for instance in Italy, Norway, Portugal, and the USA.