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A COMPARISON OF EX-ANTE, LABORATORY, AND FIELD METHODS FOR EVALUATING SURVEY QUESTIONS
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A diverse range of evaluation methods is available for detecting measurement error in survey questions. Ex-ante question evaluation methods are relatively inexpensive, because they do not require data collection from survey respondents. Other methods require data collection from respondents either in the laboratory or in the field setting. Research has explored how effective some of these methods are at identifying problems with respect to one another. However, a weakness of most of these studies is that they do not compare the range of question evaluation methods that are currently available to researchers. The purpose of this dissertation is to understand how the methods researchers use to evaluate survey questions influence the conclusions they draw about the questions. In addition, the dissertation seeks to identify more effective ways to use the methods together. It consists of three studies. The first study examines the extent of agreement between ex-ante and laboratory methods in identifying problems and compares the methods in how well they predict differences between questions whose validity has been estimated in record-check studies. The second study evaluates the extent to which ex-ante and laboratory methods predict the performance of questions in the field as measured by indirect assessments of data quality such as behavior coding, response latency and item nonresponse. The third study evaluates the extent to which ex-ante, laboratory, and field methods predict the reliability of answers to survey questions as measured by stability over time. The findings suggest (1) that a multiple method approach to question evaluation is the best strategy given differences in the ability to detect different types of problems between the methods and (2) how to combine methods more effectively in the future.