4159.0.55.002 - General Social Survey: User Guide, Australia, 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/12/2011   
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Contents >> Survey methodology >> Questionnaire


The questionnaire was designed to be administered using standard ABS procedures for conducting population interview surveys, having regard to the particular aims of the survey and of the individual topics within it, and to the methodological issues associated with those topics. Other factors considered in designing the questionnaire included the length of individual questions, the use of easily understood words and concepts, the number of subjects and overall length of the questionnaire, and sensitivity of topics. Where appropriate, standard questions from previous ABS surveys were included.

Interviews were conducted using a Computer Assisted Interviewing (CAI) questionnaire. CAI involves the use of a notebook computer to record, store, manipulate and transmit the data collected during interviews. The CAI questionnaire for the 2010 GSS was based on the 2006 version and modified to incorporate new and changed survey content. This type of instrument offers important advantages over paper questionnaires. These include:

  • the ability to check the responses entered against previous responses, to reduce data entry errors by interviewers, and to enable inconsistent responses to be clarified with respondents at the time of the interview. The audit trail recorded in the instrument also provides valuable information about the operation of particular questions, and associated data quality issues.
  • the ability to use complex sequencing to define specific populations for questions, and ensure word substitutes used in the questions are appropriate to each respondent's characteristics and prior responses.
  • the ability to capture data electronically at the point of interview, removing the added cost, logistical, timing and quality issues around the transport, storage and security of paper forms, and the capture of information from paper forms into a computerised format.
  • the ability to deliver data in an electronic semi-processed form compatible with ABS data processing facilities (semi-processed in terms of data validation and some derivations which occur within the instrument itself). While both the input and output data still need to be separately specified to the processing system, input of the data in this form assists in that specification task and reduces the amount and complexity of some later processing tasks.
  • the provision for interviewers to record comments to help explain or clarify certain responses, or provide supplementary information to assist in office coding.

The questionnaire employed a number of different approaches to recording information at the interview:
  • questions where responses were classified by interviewers to one or more predetermined response categories. This approach was used for recording answers to more straightforward questions, where logically a limited range of responses was expected, or where the focus of interest was on a particular type or group of response (which were listed in the questionnaire, with the remainder being grouped together under ‘other’);
  • questions asked in the form of a running prompt, i.e. predetermined response categories read out to the respondent one at a time until the respondent indicated agreement to one or more of the categories (as appropriate to the topic) or until all the predetermined categories were exhausted; and
  • questions asked in association with prompt cards, i.e. where printed lists of possible answers were handed to the respondent who was asked to select the most relevant response(s). By listing a set of possible responses (either in the form of a prompt card or a running prompt question) the prompt served to clarify the question or to present various alternatives, to refresh the respondent’s memory and at the same time assist the respondent select an appropriate response.
  • To ensure consistency of approach, interviewers were instructed to ask the interview questions as shown in the questionnaire. In certain areas of the questionnaire, interviewers were asked to use indirect and neutral prompts, at their discretion, where the response given was, for example, inappropriate to the question asked or lacked sufficient detail necessary for classification and coding.

A copy of the 2010 GSS questionnaire is available on the ABS web site General Social Survey: User Guide, Australia, 2010 (cat. no. 4159.0.55.002).

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