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Version: Final published version
A part of a book.
Surveying human vulnerabilities across the life course : Balancing substantive and methodological challenges
Title of the book
Surveying human vulnerabilities across the life course
Address of publication
Oris Michel, Roberts Caroline, Joye Dominique, Ernst Staehli Michèle
Life Course Research and Social Policies
How should quantitative researchers interested in investigating human vulnerabilities across the life course optimize their research designs so they can gather accurate data and draw valid conclusions about the phenomena they wish to explain? This is the question tackled in this book, which includes nine contributions from researchers in Switzerland involved in gathering and analyzing new data for a multi-disciplinary research programme called 'LIVES - Overcoming Vulnerability: Life Course Perspectives'. The chapters address both the shared and unique challenges involved in surveying specific vulnerable populations and measuring different aspects of vulnerability. The authors share both the strengths and limitations of their empirical research, and bring to light the tensions involved in pursuing ambitious and pioneering substantive research aims, while attempting to uphold the scientific standards prescribed by the literature on survey methodology. In this introductory discussion, we introduce the chapters by describing how they fit within the broader field of research into vulnerability, and how they are contributing to the advancement of substantive and theoretical debates in this domain. We then discuss the concept of survey quality, drawing on the 'total survey error' framework to highlight the various challenges faced in conducting surveys in nonstandard contexts. The chapter concludes with a discussion of lessons learned from the LIVES research about the paramount importance of collaboration between subject specialists and methodologists in the design of new research in the field of vulnerability, and of transparency with respect to the documentation of research methods, particularly in interdisciplinary research settings.
vulnerability, survey quality, total survey error, multidisciplinarity, methodology
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