Methodology of Longitudinal Surveys II

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Innovations in participant engagement and tracking in longitudinal surveys

Type:Monograph Paper
Jul 26, 11:00
  • Lisa Calderwood - Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL Institute of Education
  • Matt Brown - Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL Institute of Education
  • Emily Gilbert - Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL Institute of Education

Locating sample members who move and keeping them engaged over time are challenges unique to longitudinal surveys. Couper and Ofstedal (2009) set out a conceptual framework for analysing the location problem, reviewed the literature and presented new evidence about tracking methods used in longitudinal surveys, and made a strong case for further research in this area. This led to a growth of research regarding the effectiveness of tracking procedures, much of it focusing on the design of between-wave mailings which is one of the most commonly used tracking methods.

There has been relatively little research on the use of newer, more innovative methods of participant engagement and tracking, particularly on large-scale longitudinal surveys. This chapter will provide a review of the literature and current practice regarding the use of innovative methods of tracking, and provide new evidence regarding the use of the internet and social media for tracking and participant engagement and the use of administrative data for tracking in the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70), Next Steps (previously known as LSYPE) and the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS).

The use of the internet and social media is now widespread in the UK and other developed countries around the world. This presents new opportunities for both engagement and tracking in longitudinal surveys. In recent years, MCS and Next Steps have expanded their use of the web and social media for participant engagement and Next Steps and BCS70 have made increased use of the internet and/or social media for tracking. These are large-scale studies following generations born in 1970, 2000/2001 and 1989/1990 respectively. These are all age groups with high rates of social media and internet use. This chapter will discuss the development of these approaches and present evidence, including from social media and web usage statistics, about the effectiveness of these channels for engagement and tracking, and how they differ between studies.

Linking to administrative data offers opportunities to enhance participant tracking in longitudinal surveys. In recent years, BCS70, Next Steps and MCS have made increasing use of administrative data for tracking. Health records from GP registration have been used for tracking on all three studies and education records from the National Pupil Database and Individualised Learner Records have been used MCS and Next Steps.  This chapter will compare the present evidence on the effectiveness of tracking using administrative data, including comparing different sources and different study populations.   


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