About paradata

Paradata, marginalia, fieldnotes and letters are all by-products of the process of social research which can add considerable depth to our understanding of the research process. It is only recently, however, that researchers have begun to recognise the value of such data.

"Paradata is data which describes something about the way the raw data was collected. It is data about data. ... This type of data is now one of the cornerstones of quality measurements for web surveys.

In the field of large-scale survey data, paradata analysis has become more widespread with researchers increasingly turning their attention to the context in which questionnaires are completed, observations made during the interview and the impact of such factors on the recruitment and retention of participants. For those researchers undertaking secondary analysis of datasets the value of paradata and marginalia in the form of fieldnotes and fieldworker comments in the margins of questionnaires is invaluable and can cast light on the otherwise hidden aspects of field research.

The term 'paradata' was coined by Mick Couper of the University of Michigan in 1998.

Some resources on paradata

West BT. Paradata in Survey Research. Survey Practice. 4 (4).
ISSN: 2168-0094 (2011)

Zhang LC, Thomsen I and Kleven Ø. On the use of auxiliary and paradata for dealing with non-sampling errors in household surveys. International Statistical Review, 81: 270–288. (2013)

Greenfield J, Carpenter D. The Paradata Information Model. Paper presented at the North American Data Documentation Initiative Conference (NADDI 2013), University of Kansas (2013)

Improving Surveys with Paradata: Analytic Uses of Process Information. ed. Frauke Kreuter, John Wiley & Sons (2013) Google eBook

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Dr Henrietta O’Connor, University of Leicester

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