IRIS working document 2.2: Guidelines for IRIS Q translation, sampling, data collection and coding

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1 IRIS working document 2.2: Guidelines for IRIS Q translation, sampling, data collection and coding Grant agreement EU 7FP Collaborative project Project no Project full title Project acronym Factors influencing recruitment, retention and gender equity in science, technology and mathematics higher education IRIS Web site Working document no Title of document Guidelines for IRIS-Q translation, sampling and data collection and coding Published May 2010 Authors Ellen K. Henriksen and Camilla Schreiner Total number of pages 22 Abstract The quality of the new knowledge and insight that IRIS Q will generate depends, among other things, on the reliability of the data and the validity of cross-national comparisons. This document provides details related to the procedure for data collection, such as questionnaire format, target population, sample size and sampling procedures, translating the questionnaire, data coding, etc. All countries collecting IRIS data for international comparisons should keep as strictly as possible to the guidelines provided here. IRIS working document 2.2 Guidelines for IRIS Q data collection Page 1 of 22

2 Table of contents 1 Introduction IRIS Q Questionnaire format Target population Sample size and sampling procedure Permission Translation Contact with educational institutions Student invitation and reminder Incentive to respond Data coding Possible additional national questions Final reports from IRIS consortium partners Appendix: Screen plot of all IRIS Q master pages IRIS working document 2.2 Guidelines for IRIS Q data collection Page 2 of 22

3 1 Introduction The objective of this document is to describe the practicalities and details related to the IRIS questionnaire (hereafter IRIS Q) data collection. IRIS Q is the main data collection instrument in the IRIS project, and will be completed by science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students towards the end of their first year of higher education. All partners in the IRIS consortium have contributed to the instrument development. In order to provide high quality and comparable data from all countries, it is important that the data is gathered from similar populations and in the same manner in all countries. Issues to be addressed are the translation of the questionnaire, sample size, target population definition and sampling, procedures for making contact with the respondents and procedures for administering the questionnaire and coding the data. Some problems can only be dealt with in detail after the data collection, such as data analysis and interpretations, and aspects of validity and reliability. There are, however, several crucial matters concerning the methodology that have been considered prior to and during the process of developing the questionnaire and deciding on the target population and the data collection procedures. These include clarifying the aims and the framework of the study, reviewing relevant literature, exchanging ideas with stakeholders and reference groups, piloting the questionnaire, etc. There are a number of concerns underlying our discussions and decisions. We will not give complete accounts for all considerations and judgements behind the various choices here because this document is primarily a practical account of, and guide to, the actual procedures for IRIS Q data collection. One general principle that has guided our decisions is that the students should be enrolled in studies that are, as far as possible, equivalent or comparable across countries in order to facilitate reliable and valid international comparisons. How to maximise the response rate and at the same time keep the data collection procedure cost effective, both in terms of financial and personal resources, has also been a key issue. Associated IRIS partners outside the IRIS consortium are invited and welcome to conduct the survey in their own country by using IRIS Q and following the data collection procedures described here. This exercise is expected to give interesting perspectives of recruitment patterns and young people's educational priorities in different societies and cultures. For cross-national comparisons, it is an essential condition that data is collected in accordance with the guidelines described here. 2 IRIS Q The master version of IRIS Q was finalised in March 2010, after piloting in all IRIS consortium countries. The master is in English language, and is translated into the language of instruction in all the participating countries. IRIS working document 2.2 Guidelines for IRIS Q data collection Page 3 of 22

4 A few questions in IRIS Q are open-ended, offering the respondents a field with a number of lines where the respondents can give their answers in their own words, for example: The majority of IRIS Q does, however, consist of questions that offer the respondents fixed prestructured responses. The respondents give their answers simply by ticking the box with the response that is most appropriate to their view. The response categories are, in the main, five-point Likert scales, ranging from "Not important" to "Very important" or from "Strongly disagree" to "Strongly agree". There are text headings only above the extreme categories to the left and the right, while all categories are numbered from 1 to 5, for example: 3 Questionnaire format The IRIS-Q will be in an electronic format. A paper survey is optional, but different formats in different countries may affect the validity of cross-national comparisons. Therefore, all participating countries are encouraged to collect data through an electronic version of IRIS Q. The QuestBack online survey application ( provides a flexible web solution for harvesting data, and will be used for collecting data in all the IRIS consortium countries. The application gives opportunities for several different language versions, a range of question formats, a display of the IRIS logo on each page, straightforward user interface for the respondents, easy export of the data to Microsoft Excel or other statistical data formats, etc. QuestBack also allows IRIS working document 2.2 Guidelines for IRIS Q data collection Page 4 of 22

5 monitoring of responses while the survey is still open and the production of simple summaries of response distributions at any time. IRIS Q is divided into several pages, each with a status field indicating the questionnaire progress (Appendix I). For the IRIS consortium countries, there is one separate web-based quest for each language. The data was collected during the period March June 2010 and stored in one separate data file for each country on one server in Norway. After the data collection is completed in June 2010, national data files will be prepared, and in addition, a merged file with data from all IRIS consortium countries will be produced for the purpose of comparative analyses. Each IRIS partner will receive the merged file as well as their national data file. The IRIS associated partners outside the consortium will need to collect and store the data independently of the Norwegian QuestBack license. IRIS international partner countries that can document that data has been collected according to the guidelines in this document, may submit their data files for inclusion in an international data file including all countries that have collected IRIS data of sufficient quality. The details of how this will be organised will be presented on through the IRIS web site. 4 Target population The target population is students towards the end of their first year in a limited number of higher education STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses. The criteria used for defining the population are: central or typical STEM education/subject general recruitment challenge gender imbalance easy to identify corresponding education/programme across countries well-defined education/programme (not cross-discipline programmes such as technology, organization and learning ) preferably large numbers of students in a small number of institutions/programmes (to facilitate sampling and administration). The target population definition: All first-year students enrolled in all 3-year bachelor programs and all 5-year integrated master programmes with the following International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) codes: 421 Biology & biotechnology 441 Physics 442 Chemistry 461 Mathematics (includes some statistics) 481 Computer science 521 Mechanics and metalwork 523 Electronics and automation 524 Chemical and process IRIS working document 2.2 Guidelines for IRIS Q data collection Page 5 of 22

6 An overview of the ISCED classification system may be found at and isced97_fields 5 Sample size and sampling procedure We aim at collecting responses from respondents in each country. Countries with smakll populations (such as Slovenia, Denmark and Norway in the IRIS consortium countries) will collect data from the whole target population (a so-called census), larger countries (like Italy and the United Kingdom) will make stratified random samples. Since response rates are generally known to be relatively low for online questionnaires, around 4000 students should be invited in each country. It is up to each country to decide on relevant and interesting strata, depending on geography, demography, educational system, etc. For example, in Italy, geographical areas and university sizes will be important sampling categories for ensuring an appropriate sample. 6 Permission In many countries one may need official permission to gain access to the students to collect data. Each participating country is responsible for obtaining the necessary permissions from the relevant agency (Privacy Ombudsman for Research, Social science data services or the like) prior to the data collection. 7 Translation The master version of IRIS Q is in English, and it needs to be translated to the language of STEM instruction in each country. To ensure the quality of the translation, we use a back-translation procedure: 1. Translate each item as carefully as possible from English into the national language. The person translating the questionnaire should be someone who knows both English and the national language well, and who knows the terminology used in higher education. The translation can be done by the IRIS research team or by a professional translator. 2. Ask a colleague who is a native English speaker or a professional translator with knowledge of the terminology in higher education to translate the whole questionnaire back from the native language into English. This person should not know or see the English IRIS Q master, only the translated version. 3. Ideally, the back-translated version matches exactly the original English master. Where the two versions differ, the translator(s) and the IRIS research group should discuss alternative IRIS working document 2.2 Guidelines for IRIS Q data collection Page 6 of 22

7 translations until they reach agreement on the most accurate translation, i.e. the one that carries the intended meaning. 4. The final national IRIS Q version shall be agreed by the national IRIS team based on the suggestions from the translators and the intentions behind the questionnaire items. 8 Contact with educational institutions In most countries, the students will be invited, by , to take part in the survey by the study administration staff at each educational institution. And in each country, the IRIS researchers need to obtain permission to collect data from students at each target educational institution, and in each case to establish contact with the study administration staff. The tasks of these coordinators will mainly be to send an invitation mail to all students in the target population at the institution and a reminder mail approximately seven days later. In some countries or at some educational institutions, permission from the dean or head of administration will be required, while at other places an acceptance from the relevant study administration may be sufficient. IRIS research teams need to start early and to put sufficient effort into establishing cooperation with the administration at the educational institutions in order to obtain the greatest possible participation rate, which will be important for the validity of the conclusions from the study. After establishing contact with the coordinators at the participating educational institutions, the IRIS researchers should give instructions on how to conduct the data collection. In order to ensure similar implementation of IRIS Q in all countries, it is important that the instructions are (more or less) the same in each country. We suggest a letter with the following instructions: How to participate in the IRIS survey with students at your institution Thank you for participating in the IRIS study. The following tasks have to be carried out at your educational institution: 1. See Appendix [##] with definition of the IRIS target population and our attempt to identify the corresponding study programmes/courses at your institution. Please check that this selection of courses is correct according to the IRIS target population and the studies offered at your institution and give us your comments as soon as possible. 2. Choose a period of three weeks within [the 8th to the 10th month in the university year] for conducting the survey at your institution. 3. Send an to all students in the target population inviting them to respond to the questionnaire at the given web site within three weeks (see suggested invitation text in Appendix [##]) NB! Only first year students at the relevant studies shall be invited! You may use the address provided by the educational institution or the students' private e- mail. Maximising the response rate is crucial in order to provide high quality data. Therefore we encourage you to use the contact channels that will reach as many students as possible. You are welcome to add a couple of sentences at the top of the invitation letter where you encourage them to respond to the survey. IRIS working document 2.2 Guidelines for IRIS Q data collection Page 7 of 22

8 4. In addition to invitations, you may remind students to respond during lectures, at web sites, through electronic learning platforms, etc. 5. Send a reminder ca. one week after the invitation was sent (see reminder text in Attachment [##]). 6. Before [deadline date] please send us Full name of all the courses engaged in the survey from your institution, including [ISCED codes or other national codes] where these are known The exact number of students at each study programme that actually did receive your invitation mail. A short description of how the data collection was conducted (including dates for invitation mail, reminder mail, deadline and other possible relevant details) And finally: PLEASE DO NOT RESPOND TO THE QUESTIONNAIRE YOURSELF! If the administration staff completes the electronic questionnaire to see how it functions, we will not be able to separate these responses from the students' in our data analysis. Do instead have a look at Appendix [##] with a printout of the entire questionnaire as it will appear at the students' screen. [Best wishes, IRIS researchers' contact details, etc.] 9 Student invitation and reminder The following is an invitation text suggestion to be sent out by the administration staff, dean of faculty or others at the university/college, using lists of students enrolled in programmes in IRIS' target population. The educational institution may also add one or two lines before the invitation to say that the institution supports the project and strongly encourages its students to participate. Dear student! Respond to a questionnaire and join a prize draw of gift vouchers worth [amount in local currency]! We invite you to participate in an international research project about young people's choice of education within science, technology and mathematics. The questionnaire contains questions about how you made your choice of education and how you have experienced your first months as a student. The information you provide may help us to improve teaching and to develop more targeted information for future students. Participation is voluntary. The information you provide is confidential, and the results will not be traceable to your name or address. Click here to respond to the questionnaire before [date ca. three weeks ahead]: <URL to electronic IRIS Q in national language> It takes around 10 minutes to respond to the questionnaire. Thank you very much for your cooperation! Sincerely, for the IRIS researcher group in [country] [title/position and name] [department, institution] IRIS working document 2.2 Guidelines for IRIS Q data collection Page 8 of 22

9 Web page of the IRIS project: [or national IRIS page if you have one] The [national IRIS research institution] is responsible for the IRIS project. The project is formally ended and all data destroyed in [national year of project end]. The project has been approved by the [National Social Science Data Services or corresponding body, where applicable]. After approximately seven days, each educational institution needs to send a reminder to all students who initially received the invitation above. Suggestion to reminder text: Dear student! REMINDER: Respond to a questionnaire and join a prize draw of gift vouchers worth [amount in local currency]! Some days ago, we invited you to participate in a survey about your choice of education. If you have already responded, we thank you for your participation and ask you to please ignore this reminder. If you have not responded yet, we hope that you will do so. YOUR response is important to the project! The original invitation to participate may be found below. Click here to respond to the questionnaire before [date]: <URL to electronic IRIS Q in national language> [copy of the initial invitation text] 10 Incentive to respond In order to maximise the response rates, the students will be offered an incentive to take part in the study. Ideally, the incentive should be similar, both in amount and type, in all countries, since different rewards may affect the response rates and the validity of international comparisons. The reward will be general (or widely applicable) gift vouchers or cheques, or similar rewards that are widely applicable and attractive to the target population. By weighting the total value of the vouchers with the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in each country, the award sum will have approximately the same value in each participating country. For IRIS Q data collection in the consortium countries in spring 2010, the following total amounts were spent on incentives: Norway: 2000 Euro Denmark: 1500 Euro UK: 1300 Euro Italy: 1150 Euro Slovenia: 1000 Euro IRIS working document 2.2 Guidelines for IRIS Q data collection Page 9 of 22

10 Four randomly drawn winners receive vouchers: One at percent of the total amount (nearest round sum) and three at percent each. IRIS international associated partners should make their incentive scheme as similar as possible to the one described here. To administer the student reward for responding to the questionnaire, the last survey page invites students to participate in the prize draw for gift vouchers and redirects them to a separate questionnaire asking for contact information ( address): The address used for the prize draw is entered into a separate questionnaire, and data from this question is collected and stored disconnected from the IRIS Q data file. This is done in order to secure the anonymity of the respondents. In order to avoid students responding more than once to the prize draw question giving different addresses, respondents are required to use the address they have been given at the higher education institution where they study. It is then possible to check for multiple entries of identical addresses before performing the prize draw. The IRIS team in each country is responsible for performing the draw and administering the prizes. 11 Data coding The web-based IRIS Q quest gathers data into one separate data file for each language. QuestBack provides data files in e.g. SPSS (Statistical Programme for the Social Sciences) and Microsoft Excel format. When data collection is completed in each country, the national data file should be sent to the co-ordinator for the IRIS international associated partners (contact details will be made available through the IRIS web page). The IRIS-international coordinator aims to establish and maintain an international IRIS data file containing data from all countries that have kept to the guidelines described here and thereby collected data of sufficient quality. IRIS internatioanl associated partners may approach the coordinator to gain access to the international data file for research purposes. IRIS working document 2.2 Guidelines for IRIS Q data collection Page 10 of 22

11 Also countries outside the IRIS consortium are recommended to use QuestBack for data collection and coding, since one common platform will facilitate the merging of the data files and decrease sources of error. If other tools or formats are used for gathering the data, the responses need to be coded after the same standards as the data files extracted from QuestBack. The IRIS web site will provide empty data files in SPSS and Microsoft Excel format for manual data coding. As a general rule, the position of the respondents' tick corresponds to a coding value: A tick in the first (leftmost) box is coded 1, a tick in the second box is coded 2, etc. This means that for example in a five-point response scale, the fifth response category is coded with the value 5. Missing values (no response) are coded 0 (zero). Responses to the open-ended questions are coded and stored as exactly the same character strings as the respondents have written, without any corrections or interpretations done by the coders. In order not to complicate issues related to the anonymity of the respondents, contact details from the award question are collected and stored separately from the IRIS Q data file. 12 Possible additional national questions We have aimed at keeping the questionnaire short, and we do not recommend that other participating countries add national questions. One must not exclude questions or alter the order of questions in IRIS Q. It is, however, possible to add some national items. In that case the national items must be inserted at the end of the questionnaire. The last item in the IRIS Q master does not appear in the Norwegian and the Danish versions, since this question (regarding the economic cost of study) is not applicable in the Norwegian and Danish contexts. Otherwise, the new items may affect the responses and/or complicate the compilation of international data files. Before merging the data with other countries' data files, data from the national questions must be deleted. 13 Final reports from IRIS consortium partners When the data collection is completed in each IRIS consortium country, the IRIS team must send a short account to the coordinator (Oslo), specifying details of the data collection procedure, notably the sampling regime employed and any points where the procedure differed from what is described in this document. IRIS working document 2.2 Guidelines for IRIS Q data collection Page 11 of 22

12 Appendix: Screen plot of all IRIS Q master pages IRIS working document 2.2 Guidelines for IRIS Q data collection Page 12 of 22

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