Course 9 - Cross-National Comparative Surveys

August 13-24, 2012

Instructors: Week 1 - Tom W. Smith; Weeks 1 and 2: Dominique Joye, Christof Wolf

Course content

This course provides an overview of cross-national survey programmes, the challenges faced when conducting comparative surveys as well as those faced when analysing cross-national data. We begin the first week by introducing available survey data for comparative research comprising academic survey programs, such as SHARE, ESS and ISSP, and surveys from official statistics, for example EU-LFS. We continue by discussing issues of survey methodology specifically relevant for comparative research, e.g. problems of translation, functional equivalence, (cognitive) pretesting, sampling, field work procedures, and harmonisation of data.

The second week will be devoted to issues of data quality and specific challenges of data analysis in cross-national survey research. We will begin by discussing response rate and non response bias as measures of data quality, and continue by introducing ways to assess survey quality using paradata (i.e. data on the data gathering process) and metadata (i.e. data describing the data). Finally, we will discuss practical issues in data analysis for comparative research, including multilevel analysis, multi group confirmatory factor analysis and general problems and opportunities of secondary data analysis. We will also introduce participants to available sources for context/macro data.

Individual and group exercises will complement the lectures and allow participants to acquire the relevant practical skills.

Course and learning objectives

The course aims at introducing participants to data sources and methods for cross-national research. In addition to learning about the possibilities and limitations of available comparative surveys, participants will gain a thorough understanding of the different elements/aspects of comparative surveys and how these impact on data quality. Participants will also become familiar with specific methods and strategies of data analysis for comparative survey research.

Course prerequisites

We assume that participants have basic knowledge of survey methodology in a national context, in particular with respect to questionnaire design, sampling, survey implementation and data editing. For the data analysis part, basic knowledge in regression and factor analysis is also required. Note: Participants will need to bring a laptop computer in order to perform the practical exercises in this course. 


Please note that for this course, the optional exam will be in form of a paper to be submitted to the instructors after the end of the Summer School. If you want to gain 5 ECTS points for this course, you will thus not need to be present for the classroom exam on August 25th.

Recommended reading

  1. Byrne, B. M. (2010). Structural Equation Modeling with AMOS. Basic Concepts, Applications, and Programming. 2nd edition, New York.
  2. Davidov, E., P. Schmidt & S. H. Schwartz (2008). Bringing Values Back In. The Adequacy of the European Social Survey to Measure Values in 20 Countries. Public Opinion Quarterly, 72 (3): 420-445.
  3. Harkness, J., M. Braun, B. Edwards, T. P. Johnson, L. Lyberg, P. Mohler et al. (Eds.). (2010). Survey Methods in Multinational, Multiregional, and Multicultural Contexts. Hoboken, N.J.
  4. Harkness, J. A. (Ed.). (2006). Conducting Cross-National and Cross-Cultural Surveys. ZUMA-Nachrichten Spezial, Band 12. Mannheim.
  5. Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik, J. H. P. & J. A. Harkness (Eds.). (2006). Methodological Aspects in Cross-National Research. ZUMA-Nachrichten Spezial, Band 11. Mannheim.
  6. Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik, J. H. P. & C. Wolf (Eds.). (2003). Advances in Cross-National Comparison. An European Working Book for Demographic and Socio-Economic Variables. New York.
  7. Steinmetz, H., P. Schmidt, A. Tina-Booh, S. Wieczorek & S. H. Schwartz (2009). Testing Measurement Invariance using Multigroup CFA. Differences between Educational Groups in Human Values Measurement. Quality and Quantity, 43 (4): 599-616.
  8. Hox, J. J. (2010). Multilevel Analysis. Techniques and Applications. 2nd edition, Hove.

About the instructors

Prof. Dr. Dominique Joye is Professor for Sociology at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. He is involved in the ISSP, ESS and SHARE. His research interests include methodology, inequality and social mobility.

Tom W. Smith, PhD is Senior Fellow at NORC and President of the World Association for Public Opinion Research. He is director of the U.S. General Social Survey and founding member of the ISSP. His research interests include survey methodology and public opinion research.

Prof. Dr. Christof Wolf is Scientific Director at GESIS and Professor for Sociology at the University of Mannheim. His current research interests include social network analysis and survey methodology with an emphasis on problems of cross-national comparability and harmonization.