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How to interview refugees from countries with low literacy rates?

12/19/2019

Standardized surveys of refugees pose a variety of methodological challenges. It was not only the translation of survey instruments into the various languages of origin that proved to be difficult in the ReGES study. Challenges also occurred with the choice of survey type where origin-specific characteristics had to be taken into account.

 

One relevant aspect was the fact that some of the refugees do not have sufficient reading and writing skills in their language of origin. The literacy rates in the ten countries of origin included in the sample indicate that illiterate people are also represented in the sample.

In order to avoid excluding this group systematically, the ReGES study offered two survey modes with different advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, it was possible to complete the questionnaire in the form of a “Computer-Assisted Personal Interview” (CAPI). The interviewers had to be native speakers of both German and the foreign language. On the other hand, it was also possible to conduct the survey as a "Computer-Assisted-Self-Interview" (CASI) to counteract, for example, the effects of interviewers and to reduce the effect of social desirability bias in response behavior. Participants in the study were able to fill out the questionnaire themselves using a tablet computer and additionally listen to audio files of all questions.

The LIfBi Working Paper No. 86 “Übersetzung von Instrumenten für die Befragung von Neuzugewanderten und Implementation einer audiobasierten Interviewdurchführung [Translation of instruments for interviewing newly arrived immigrants and implementation of an audio-based interview procedure]” provides a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of the two survey modes as well as presenting practical experience with the survey modes and the use of audio files.