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1504.0 - Methodological News, Sep 2002  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/11/2002   
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UPDATE TO THE FORM DESIGN STANDARDS MANUAL

It is several years since the Forms Development Procedures and Design Standards Manual was last updated on the Corporate Manuals DB. This means that some of the information in it was out of date or otherwise inappropriate. A new version developed by the Forms Consultancy Group has recently been released on the Corporate Manuals database and the Statistical Clearing House web site.

The update had the following aims:

  • To separate the form design standards (the current focus) from the development and testing information. These two types of information were seen as having different purposes and different audiences so they will be presented in separate manuals.
  • To update the factual procedural-type information- correcting the software used, giving the appropriate contact details for different aspects of forms design, etc.
  • Improving the standards themselves, including the addition of background references.

Most of the changes were quite minor, often involving a realignment of the standards to current survey practice. Some of the more significant changes are as follows:
  • Including a "Purpose of Collection" on the front page of self-administered business forms has become mandatory. The increasing need to improve response rates and provider motivation has lead to a requirement to explain on the form what the survey is for, and preferably, what are the potential benefits to the provider.
  • Standards have been developed for the use of sensitive and subjective questions, such as those using rating scales. Traditionally an integral part of household surveys, these sorts of questions are increasingly being used in ABS business surveys due to a shift away from purely accounting-type questions towards more motivational and behavioural items.
  • More detail has been added on how the information on forms should be structured. This includes how "parts" should be used, where instructions should go, and details on sequencing and spacing. One of the drivers for these additions is the increased collection of sparse data leading to more complicated questionnaires.

Before its release the new Manual went through two productive rounds of stakeholder consultation. It was also peer reviewed by Professor Don Dillman, and very favourable comments were received.

For more information, please contact Emma Farrell on (02) 6252 7316.

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