Research methodologies

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AIFS conducts both primary and secondary research to highlight key research trends in family wellbeing and has expertise in using numerous research methodologies.

Quantitative research

AIFS researchers have experience in a variety of quantitative research methods including data collection, representative sampling, data and statistical analysis and data validation.

Data collection

AIFS has significant experience in the planning, development, collection and analysis of survey data from a diverse range of respondents using a variety of methods, including computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI), face-to-face interviews, mailout and online surveys. Many of AIFS research projects collect information on very sensitive topics, including violence and safety, mental health, substance abuse and family relationships.
AIFS also has significant experience in collecting sensitive information from a wide range of individuals and groups, including:

  • families (including separated families with dependent children, parents with young children and grandparents)
  • children and adolescents
  • people from varying cultural backgrounds, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and humanitarian migrants
  • judicial officers
  • professionals (lawyers, family relationship services staff, counsellors, court staff, teachers, child care workers)
  • clients of government services
  • people from varying geographic regions, including rural and remote areas.

AIFS makes use of consultations, focus groups, in-depth interviewing and cognitive testing in order to help determine the interview techniques that will work best with particular types of respondents.

Representative sampling

AIFS applies appropriate sampling techniques so that the data collected are representative of the populations required. Where analysis is required of subgroups that have low representation in the known population, stratification of the population and over-sampling of these subgroups ensure that an adequate sample is obtained. Where differing subgroups are likely to exhibit different response rates, then lower responding groups can also be over-sampled and/or maximum quotas placed on inclusion of those groups with higher response rates.

Data and statistical analysis

AIFS research staff have a detailed understanding of, and extensive experience in, the application of a comprehensive array of data analysis techniques. The techniques are chosen according to their appropriateness for the specific research question data available. AIFS staff have expertise spanning data management through to sophisticated modelling techniques suited to the analysis of both cross-sectional and longitudinal (panel) surveys in addition to administrative data.

Quantitative research projects undertaken by AIFS also usually involve multivariate analyses. A particular strength of AIFS is the experience, across our research staff, in the application of a very wide range of multivariate statistical techniques.

Data validation and quality

Data quality is crucial in any research in order to ensure that results are accurate, and data cleaning is an essential aspect of good data quality. AIFS always applies validation checks on the data collected to ensure the responses obtained are within appropriate ranges, given the nature of the data, and that responses to questions within a survey are internally consistent.

Data linkage

AIFS can access a rich variety of data sets to provide valuable new information for research and policy making in a secure privacy preserving manner. AIFS has experience in linking survey data to a wide range of administrative and other data sources. AIFS role as an accredited integrating authority and experience in data linkage enables AIFS to negotiate and arrange access to relevant datasets.

Qualitative research

Qualitative research methods are used to uncover trends in thoughts or opinions and gain a more in depth understanding of how a person feels on a particular issue. AIFS has undertaken many projects that use qualitative research and our staff include experienced qualitative researchers. All qualitative and mixed-methods projects employ appropriate and coherent research designs in which the research purpose, research questions, data collection methods, data analysis and the conclusions drawn demonstrate internal validity. AIFS staff have particular expertise in undertaking qualitative focus groups (including online), cognitive interviews, case studies and/or in depth interviews.

Our qualitative research is undertaken with a diverse range of people. These include: parents, children, people living in jobless households, mothers receiving income support payments (single and couple mothers), child care workers, carers of Indigenous children in out-of-home care, young vulnerable mothers and their immediate families, staff working in community service organisations, people affected by the past practices of adoption policies, young people in out-of-home care, their carers and their case workers, judicial officers and court staff, organisational representatives involved with the placement of Indigenous children in out-of-home care and victims/survivors of sexual assault.

Some of the features of AIFS qualitative research are:

  • using recruitment strategies that are appropriate to the population of interest (e.g., snowball sampling)
  • reflexive and responsive interaction with participants during data collection phases to ensure their comfort within and control over the process
  • proactive follow-up with participants about the status of the project, how the information they provided is being used (this may involve providing them with copies of their transcripts or of the analysis), and seeking their feedback about their participation and/or the use of their data.

Current AIFS research projects that use qualitative research methods include:

Program evaluation

Program evaluation is the systematic process of investigating if a program or service achieves its aims. There are several broad types of program evaluation but two that are commonly used are impact and process evaluations. AIFS has conducted numerous program evaluations for both government agencies and not-for-profit organisations. The Institute is currently conducting several key evaluations:

Literature reviews

AIFS has undertaken many literature reviews either as part of broader projects, stand-alone reviews or for the Child Family Community Australia. Examples include:

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