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Survey Quality
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Statistics.
2012 (English)In: Survey Methodology, ISSN 0714-0045, Vol. 38, no 2, 107-130 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Survey quality is a multi-faceted concept that originates from two different development paths. One path is the total survey error paradigm that rests on four pillars providing principles that guide survey design, survey implementation, survey evaluation, and survey data analysis. We should design surveys so that the mean squared error of an estimate is minimized given budget and other constraints. It is important to take all known error sources into account, to monitor major error sources during implementation, to periodically evaluate major error sources and combinations of these sources after the survey is completed, and to study the effects of errors on the survey analysis. In this context survey quality can be measured by the mean squared error and controlled by observations made during implementation and improved by evaluation studies. The paradigm has both strengths and weaknesses. One strength is that research can be defined by error sources and one weakness is that most total survey error assessments are incomplete in the sense that it is not possible to include the effects of all the error sources. The second path is influenced by ideas from the quality management sciences. These sciences concern business excellence in providing products and services with a focus on customers and competition from other providers. These ideas have had a great influence on many statistical organizations. One effect is the acceptance among data providers that product quality cannot be achieved without a sufficient underlying process quality and process quality cannot be achieved without a good organizational quality. These levels can be controlled and evaluated by service level agreements, customer surveys, paradata analysis using statistical process control, and organizational assessment using business excellence models or other sets of criteria. All levels can be improved by conducting improvement projects chosen by means of priority functions. The ultimate goal of improvement projects is that the processes involved should gradually approach a state where they are error-free. Of course, this might be an unattainable goal, albeit one to strive for. It is not realistic to hope for continuous measurements of the total survey error using the mean squared error. Instead one can hope that continuous quality improvement using management science ideas and statistical methods can minimize biases and other survey process problems so that the variance becomes an approximation of the mean squared error. If that can be achieved we have made the two development paths approximately coincide.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 38, no 2, 107-130 p.
Keyword [en]
Quality management, Total survey error, Quality framework, Mean squared error, Process variability, Statistical process control, Users of survey data
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-84454ISI: 000313095700001OAI: diva2:580456
Available from: 2012-12-21 Created: 2012-12-21 Last updated: 2013-02-18Bibliographically approved

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