A Review of Quality Issues Associated with Studying Hard-to-Reach Populations
*Lars Lyberg, Stockholm University
Keywords: systematic review for surveying H2R, quality assurance and quality control,
The reasons that complicate collecting quality data from populations considered to be hard to reach (here H2R) are diverse and often interrelated. Populations may be difficult to sample, to access or contact, to persuade to interview or to interview. Alternatively, aspects such as relevance, timeliness, comparability or ethics may pose major problems. This review is provided in the context of a quality assurance and quality control framework to survey error throughout the survey production process. The discussion is based on an extensive systematic review of quantitative and qualitative literature related to H2R, as well as our first-hand experience and knowledge of surveying these populations. We discuss and define kinds of H2R populations and the characteristics that earn them the H2R label and relate these to different sources of survey error. In keeping with the goals of a systematic review, we identify and discuss literature from various disciplines and sources on methodological challenges posed by H2R research. In our comprehensive overview of populations, challenges and solutions proposed, we also identify research gaps and methodological questions which urgently need to be addressed. Here we consider sources of error and survey lifecycle stages less frequently discussed or for which concrete data and solutions are sparse. We identify pertinent quality assurance/control steps to address such gaps and point to tools to remedy important measurement and documentation deficits. We expect our quality assurance/control framework and systematic review to provide innovative and unique insights into ways to improve current practice in surveying H2R populations.