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Surveys are used extensively in psychology, sociology and business, as well as many other areas, but they are becoming increasingly difficult to conduct. Some segments of the population are hard to sample, some are hard to find, others are hard to persuade to participate in surveys, and still others are hard to interview. This book offers the first systematic look at the populations and settings that make surveys hard to conduct and at the methods researchers use to meet these challenges. It covers a wide range of populations (immigrants, persons with intellectual difficulties, and political extremists) and settings (war zones, homeless shelters) that offer special problems or present unusual challenges for surveys. The team of international contributors also addresses sampling strategies including methods such as respondent-driven sampling and examines data collection strategies including advertising and other methods for engaging otherwise difficult populations.
Between rising costs and falling response rates, surveys certainly seem to have their problems these days. Yet, it also seems that surveys have never been more popular as a research tool than they are now. Every year, more and more federal surveys are done (Presser & McCulloch, 2012) and the rate of growth has, we suspect, been even faster for academic and commercial surveys. And it also seems to us that surveys are being done with an ever-wider array of groups and in an ever-wider range of settings than ever before. Groups that may once have been deemed impossible to survey – groups like the homeless, prostitutes, war refugees, victims of natural disaster, and persons with serious physical or mental disabilities – are now the target populations for surveys – maybe not routine surveys, but surveys nonetheless. This volume tries to capture the experiences and lessons learned that have accumulated over the years in doing surveys with such hard-to-survey populations. We hope that presenting some of the best of the recent work here will spur the development of methods for surveying these groups, moving the field beyond stories about individual experiences and toward a more systematic understanding of the problems and solutions.