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Adaptation and Administration of Questionnaires in Surveys on Migrants: Challenges and Solutions

Coordinator 1Professor Patrick Brzoska (Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Faculty of Medicine)
Coordinator 2Dr Dorothée Behr (GESIS – Leibniz-Institute for the Social Sciences)
Coordinator 3Dr Steffen Pötzschke (GESIS – Leibniz-Institute for the Social Sciences)

Session Details

Migrants constitute increasingly large proportions in many European and non-European countries. While some have lived in the host countries for several decades, others are recent immigrants, the latter of which also include refugees and asylum seekers. In order to devise and evaluate appropriate policies and services, survey data on this population is of high relevance. Given migrants’ wide ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity, survey research among migrants is associated with different challenges that encompass the entire research process and that go beyond the problems encountered in cross-national and cross-cultural survey research in general. Migrants are not only difficult to define and hard to reach, which makes the application of sophisticated sampling techniques necessary to collect high-quality data. One particular challenge concerns the application of quantitative questionnaires itself: As many migrants have limited proficiency of the host country’s language, it is usually necessary to also provide questionnaires in their ‘mother tongue’. Frequently used questionnaires or scales are often available in several language versions. However, because of differences in language development over time, migrants may have problems understanding these questionnaires in case they have only been adapted for the population of their countries of origin. As a consequence, research instruments developed for source populations may perform differently when administered to the respective migrant communities and therefore need to be re-adapted to the language style, level of language proficiency, and the cultural background of migrants without compromising their overall properties and their cross-group comparability. Substantial cultural and linguistic adaptations may also be necessary if questionnaires are to be administered in the language of the host country. These challenges need to be addressed by appropriate strategies to account for different forms of bias and to ensure high-quality survey data. This is not only relevant for researchers specialized in research on migrants. In an increasingly diverse society, also general surveys need to increasingly employ adequate approaches in order to include groups of individuals who are a significant part of a country’s society.
For this session, we welcome contributions illustrating novel methodological approaches that address (language-related) problems involved in research on migrants in terms of the adaptation (including translation) and administration of questionnaires. We invite researchers to share their experiences in these regards. Topics may cover different phases of the research process, such as instrument design and translation/adaptation/pretesting, field work, and data analysis.