Table 1

Summary of the development of study procedures and data collection instruments for the LHH Survey through the feasibility study, the pretest study and the pilot study

Feasibility study (2008)Pretest study (2010)Pilot study (2011)
Major aimsTo investigate the viability of adapting the ELSA life history face-to-face interview for administration to an Australian population using structured telephone interviews as a bridge to the planned use of CATITo test a refined version of the telephone interview in a formal CATI environmentFull test of fieldwork procedures, survey protocol and sampling framework for the main study
Sample age and sourceMembers (aged 50 years and up) of National Seniors Australia, Parramatta branch, NSW, Australia60–64 years old registered members of the HMRI, Australia60–64 years old participants from the 45 and Up Study, NSW, Australia
Invitations sent/respondents/response rate60/15/25%120/24/20%100/34/34%
MaterialsConsent form, participant information statement, introduction letter, life grid calendar, self-completion questionnaire and a return envelopeAs per feasibility studyAs per feasibility study.
The consent form, introduction letter and self-complete questionnaire were combined into a single booklet
ProceduresSnowballing techniques were used to recruit the participants.
Participants returned the consent form and the self-completion questionnaire and were asked to make notes on and retain the life grid calendar for the follow-up telephone interview to be performed by University of Sydney Researchers.
The interview process was conducted in two stages. During the initial development stage, the interview questions were modified after each interview based on issues that were identified in the interview. When the interview had reached a stage where most of the participants could complete it in approximately 1 h, the interview format was fixed and the structured interviews were conducted
One hundred and twenty registered members of the HMRI were invited to take part in the pilot study via an email from the Institute's administrator. Interested members (32) were sent a survey pack as per the feasibility study
A University of Sydney researcher received the Consent forms and self-complete questionnaire. The participants’ contact details were then passed onto a professional CATI company.
A University of Sydney researcher working on the LHH project briefed the interviewers. The interviewers were asked to note down any problems the participants had with the interview and to identify ways that the interview could be streamlined
Eligible participants randomly selected from the 45 and Up Study participant pool.
Survey packs were mailed on behalf of and received by the 45 and Up study. The participants’ details were then forwarded to the professional CATI company for the follow-up telephone interview. The participants were contacted within 10 days of receiving their contact information
Interviewers were extensively trained and audited by the University of Sydney researcher on two occasions.
Sampling for English migrants was based on the proportion of UK born participants in the 45 and Up sample aged 60–64 years
Major findingsA pen-and-paper version of the life grid and follow-up telephone interview was an effective means for recording life history informationThe interviews took, on average, 45 min to complete. However, the two participants who had not completed the grid took 90 min to relay their life history information to the interviewersCompletion of the life grid prior to the interview was a crucial component to successfully gathering life history information within the expected 30 min
Changes to the survey protocolFollowing the feasibility study, the CATI protocol was further refined to reduce the length of the telephone interview.
Items that were not deemed central to the Project were also removed from the self-complete questionnaire
A decision was made to not attempt the follow-up interview if the participant had not completed their life grid. In these future instances, a new interview time was to be scheduled.
Life history questions on children were shifted from the CATI to the self-complete and the CATI protocol was further refined to reduce the interview time to an expected 30 min
The rescheduling of appointments for participants who had not completed or could not find their life grid was formally noted in the interviewers’ manual.
No further changes were made to the study protocol except for some minor items that were added to the self-complete questionnaire
  • CATI, computer-assisted telephone interviews; ELSA, English Longitudinal Study on Ageing; HMRI, Hunter Medical Research Institute; LHH, Life Histories and Health; NSW, New South Wales.