Alessandra Gaia (Ph.D.) is a researcher at the University of Milan-Bicocca. Previously she worked as a survey manager at the European Social Survey Headquarters at City, University of London; she worked as survey researcher at the Institute for Social and Economic Research of the University of Essex, where she was part of the team that administers Understanding Society: the UK Household Longitudinal Study. She has also served the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies as survey manager of Next Steps: the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England. She briefly collaborated with the United Nation Department of Economic and Social Affairs and with the World Food Programme of the United Nations. Her scientific papers are published in the following journals: the Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology; Methods, Data, Analysis; Survey Methods: Insights from the Field, and other academic journals. She is currently contributing to a large encyclopaedia of social sciences, the SAGE Research Methods Foundations: An Encyclopaedia. Her research interests are: research methods for hard-to-reach populations, data quality when asking sensitive questions in surveys, social desirability bias, and Methodology of Social Research.
The course presents quantitative research methods to conduct research on rare, marginal, hidden, and elusive populations (also called hard-to-reach populations), such as, for example, sex workers, illegal immigrants, victims of trafficking, and drug users. After introducing and defining hard-to-reach populations, the course describes a wide range of methods: techniques to estimate the size of hard-to-reach populations (capture-recapture), sampling strategies (Respondent Driven Sampling, RDS), and data collection methods to ask questions about sensitive topics, including indirect questioning techniques (e.g. the Item Count Technique, the Randomised Response Technique, etc). Ethical issues arising when investigating hard-to-reach populations will be discussed. The course is applied in nature and includes examples from empirical research.
The course is addressed to Ph.D. and Master students, academic researchers, and practitioners (from NGOs, UN, International Organizations, charities, and survey agencies), that wish to conduct research on hard-to-reach populations. Participants will learn how to sample and collect data on rare, marginal, hidden, elusive and excluded populations, in developing countries as well as in the western world. Also, students will become familiar with the ethical issues associated with conducting research in these contexts. Participants will be encouraged to present their work and the instructor will discuss case studies taking into consideration students’ areas of research interest.
This is an introductory course. Basic knowledge in statistics and quantitative research methods would be beneficial.
Representative Background Reading
Kish, L. (1991). A Taxonomy of elusive populations. Journal of Official Statistics, 7(3): 339-347.
Tourangeau, R. (2014). “Defining hard-to-survey populations”. Hard-to-Survey Populations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139381635, p: 3-20.
Tourangeau, R., Edwards, B., Johnson, T., Wolter, K., & Bates, N. (Eds.). (2014). Hard-to-Survey Populations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139381635