Tracks and sessions

Track: General

General papers

Session Convenor: Betsy Blunsdon, Australian Consortium for Social and Political Research Inc.

The conference sessions listed below are indicative and those listed are the result of proposals submitted by session convenors. If you have a methodological paper that you don't feel fits into the listed sessions then submit it in this session. Sessions are modified (combined/added/deleted) based on the presentations/papers submitted. We are sure to find a home for your work if the focus is an aspect of social science methodology.

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Plenary Sessions

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Track: Datasets, data collections and data archiving

Adding value to existing data, including administrative

Session Convenor: Barry Milne, The University of Auckland

There are large administrative data sets that are increasingly becoming available and that can pay high analytical dividends for social science and public policy purposes. In a number of countries major steps are being taken to make access to such administrative data sets more practical. This session will showcase research that uses administrative data in novel ways or in ways that influence policy and practice.

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Data archiving and management

Session Convenor: Steven McEachern, Australian Data Archive

The conduct of large scale research projects increasingly involves complex institutional requirements, multiple partners and often long-term timelines. These demands increasingly require sophisticated data management tools and skills, both throughout the project itself and in the preservation of data for future (secondary) use. This session invites papers that contribute to the understanding of the issues associated with the management of research data, from project design through to publication and archiving for reuse. Topics that might come under this theme include:

  • Data archiving and preservation
  • Data dissemination and sharing
  • Managing research data through the research lifecycle
  • Methods, techniques and tools for research data management
  • Data citation and attribution practices

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Track: Research methods and techniques

Addressing the quantitative deficit in social science

Session Convenor: Peter Davis, COMPASS Research Centre, The University of Auckland

This session invites submissions on the issue of improving quantitative skills in the social sciences. Such submissions could be examples of interventions that are planned or that have been undertaken, or just examples of efforts made to improve quantitative skills in a less formal manner. Submissions can address issues of a "quantitative deficit" at undergraduate, graduate, pre-doctoral, doctoral and staff/faculty level. We will also consider submissions that cast more light on the extent of the problem, but preference will be given to examples of concrete attempts to improve quantitative skills in the social science community.

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Methods for Policy and Planning

Session Convenor: Shaun Wilson, Macquarie University

The papers in this session details social science methodologies and techniques for policy and planning.

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Session Convenor: Betsy Blunsdon, Australian Consortium for Social and Political Research Inc.

This session presents work on simulartion.

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Social Network Analysis (SNA)

Session Convenor: Julien Brailly, Swinburne University of Technology

Social networks are resources for mobilizing community or social movements. How do researchers and activists map these networks? How useful are techniques from social network analysis for uncovering latent or covert networks? Does social network analysis offer suggestions about ways to facilitate and enable social networks to support community goals? We invite papers from any one, practitioner or researcher, working on communities using, or interested in, social network concepts or perspectives.

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Social media, network analysis and big data

Session Convenor: Robert Ackland, Australian National University
Session Convenor: Haris Memic, Australian National University

Vast amounts of data are generated daily in online environments such microblogs (e.g. Twitter), social networking sites (e.g. Facebook) and virtual worlds (e.g. Second Life).  However there are significant methodological challenges associated with using socially-generated "big data" in social science research.  Participants are invited to submit proposals for papers focusing on the application of network analysis to digital trace data.  Papers combining text analysis and network analysis are particularly welcome, as are papers focusing on the application of dynamic network analysis.

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Probability versus non-probability sampling and the special case of on-line panels

Session Convenor: Darren Pennay, The Social Research Centre Pty Ltd

Internet surveys, most of which are conducted via online panels, are a relatively recent development in the history of survey research; starting in the United States and Europe, and then expanding elsewhere in the world.  Today it is estimated that global expenditure on online research is around $US6B per annum and accounts for about 28 per cent of the total revenue of the market and social research industry.  In Australia in 2013, online research accounted for 34 per cent of the revenue generated by the market and social research industry up from 29 per cent two years earlier.  This equates to annual expenditure of approximately AU$250M (ESOMAR, 2014).  There are between 15 to 20 mainstream online panels operating in Australia all of which are recruited using non-probability sampling methods.  Survey methodologists  are concerned that the rapid increase in the use of non-probability online panels in Australia has not been accompanied by an informed debate regarding the advantages and disadvantages of using such panels and, in particular, the shortcomings associated with making inferences to the general population from surveys administered to samples of opt in online panel members.  The purposes of this session is to call for papers to explore this issues in more detail.   

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Track: Research paradigms and designs

Challenges of studying unique populations

Session Convenor: Ann Evans, Australian National University, Canberra
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Innovations in longitudinal data collection methodologies

Session Convenor: Joanne Corey, Australian Bureau of Statistics

Longitudinal data collections are exciting and challenging projects to work on, and those who do work on them have much in common.  We all face similar questions such as: How much should the collection remain the same over the waves while still allowing appropriate new content? What will be the impact on the data, and respondents, if the mode of data collection changes? How can we reduce attrition of the sample over time?   Are incentives worthwhile and what are the most effective ones?   Are there any tracking/tracing methods that are more cost effective and better at finding people than others? How do we best assist our respondents with recall? The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) is currently trying to address a number of these questions through a variety of respondent engagement and tracking activities, including recruiting respondents to a panel to try and answer some of the questions above, and conducting follow up phone interviews with first time refusals.  LSAC has also developed an Event History Calendar for 16-17 year olds to collect 2 years of retrospective data in key domains using the on screen calendar as a visual tool, as well as the actual data collected being displayed in the calendar in order to promote more accurate recall. This session is interested in hearing about other work taking place in the longitudinal data collection world which is trying to answer these, or other interesting questions with the aim of increasing data quality and reducing panel attrition.

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Mental Health Research Methodology

Session Convenor: Gina Aalgaard Kelly, North Dakota State University

This session is to disseminate and discuss research utilizing sociological methodologies examining mental health and mental illness. This is a large umbrella topic, however mental illness is not just an individual issue it’s also one interwoven in society (i.e., both micro and macro levels of society).  This session invites quantitative, qualitative and mixed methodologies to be included.  Papers discussing different types of methodologies related research inquiries of mental illness could include diagnosis, medication adherence, treatment, stigma with mental illness, perceptions of mental illness and health, and others etc.   

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Organisational and institutional methods

Session Convenor: Nicola McNeil, La Trobe University, Melbourne

The focus of this session will be on methods in organisational and institution research. Studying organisations poses a number of challenges methodologically such as  sampling, levels of analysis in organisational and institutional research, and access and ethics in organisational research. This session invites proposal on methods and solutions to these challenges. The session will be especially interesting to researchers in organisational theory, organisational behaviour, management, industrial sociology, and human resource management, for example.

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The Role and Benefit of Metadata Capture, Discovery and Harmonization in Survey Research

Session Convenor: Steven McEachern, Australian Data Archive
Session Convenor: Joachim Wackerow, GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences

This session invites presentations dealing with structured metadata in a standardized form across the data life-cycle: case studies, systems and tools for i.e. instrument design, data entry, data processing, maintaining data documentation, and capturing and storing the metadata within a repository for later re-use.  Capturing metadata as early on in the survey life-cycle as possible in a structured way enhances transparency and quality, supports harmonization and comparison of studies, and enables reproducible research and reuse of survey components for other waves or surveys. Metadata management can be seen as an integrated part of the survey research process.  A wide range of different products and services for different audiences can be generated on the basis of metadata like web-based information systems, traditional codebooks, command setups for statistical packages, question banks, and searching and locating of data.  Papers are invited on, but not limited to, the following topics: reuse of metadata across space, time, and studies, metadata banks such as for questions and classifications, and metadata-driven information systems, possibly using DDI Lifecycle (Data Documentation Initiative).  The session is aimed at survey designers and implementers, data and metadata managers, information system managers of cross-national surveys, metadata experts, and others.

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Total Survey Error: challenges and practical solutions

Session Convenor: Sonia Whiteley, ORC International

This session will focus on how researchers are using a Total Survey Error (TSE) framework to improve the design, implementation and analysis of surveys.  Errors of representation, coverage error, sampling error, non-response error and adjustment error as well as errors of measurement, validity, measurement error, processing error and inferential error, would all be in-scope for discussion.  

Session topics could explore:

  • How to achieve optimal survey designs with project budgets
  • Survey design ‘trade-offs’ that are required when ‘gold-standard’ investigations are cost prohibitive 
  • Responsive design and minimising survey error during data collection (including when research doesn’t go according to plan!)
  • TSE across different modes of data collection •Communicating TSE to non-research audiences, and
  • The benefits of using a TSE framework. 

The session will be relevant to quantitative researchers, research managers and data analysts.

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Unpacking the Arts In Research

Session Convenor: Nikki Brunker, University of Sydney

This session aims to bring together researchers interested in engaging with the arts in their research process. The focus of the session will be to explore the nuanced pragmatics of our varied processes in utilising the arts in any area of the research process.  The main themes will be the enactment of Arts Informed Inquiry and Arts Based Research to support the engagement of new researchers in this field.  Engaging the arts in research is a highly creative process which removes the systematic outline of procedures that many new to a research methodology crave.  In explicating our methods, specifically in regard to data collection, analysis and sharing of discoveries, we may support both greater uptake as well as greater understanding of these valuable methodologies. 

Possible presentation topics may include:

  • Varied perspectives on the positioning of the arts within the research process 
  • Data analysis in Arts Informed Inquiry or Arts Based Inquiry
  • Engaging Audiences in Arts Informed Inquiry or Arts Based Research
  • Standing strong in the contribution Arts Informed Inquiry and Arts Based Research makes to the broader world of research
  • Meeting standards for quality in Arts Informed Inquiry or Arts Based Research

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Video reflexive ethnography: Creative scholarship for complex spaces

Session Convenor: Ann Dadich, School of Business, Western Sydney University

Video reflexive ethnography (VRE) represents an unconventional way in which to engage with, explore, and ultimately understand complex spaces. It involves featuring in and/or gathering visual data (V); interpreting collected data by ‘monitor[ing] and affect[ing] events, conducts and contexts in situ’ (Iedema, 2011, p. i84) (R); and using different research methods to suspend and understand practices and experiences in situ (E). VRE can therefore be a powerful way to facilitate individual and/or organisational transformation (Iedema, Long, Forsyth, & Lee, 2006) – this is because video-recordings can attune people to personal and interpersonal dimensions they might not otherwise have considered (Iedema, Allen, Britton, & Gallagher, 2012; Mertens, 2009). As an established methodology, VRE has been successfully applied in various settings, most of which might be considered complex spaces (Carroll, Iedema, & Kerridge, 2008; Collier, 2013; Iedema, Mesman, & Carroll, 2013). However, the challenge remains as to how the lessons garnered from these experiences might be adapted to similarly complex spaces that might benefit from creative scholarship. The aim of this session is advance VRE scholarship. Towards this aim, papers in this session will demonstrate various approaches to VRE, particularly those that reveal its potential to foster creative scholarship about, or within complex spaces. This includes papers on unconventional or curious ways to engage with, explore, and ultimately understand these contexts. This session is aimed at experienced researchers, as well as doctoral scholars.

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Innovative Qualitative and Mixed Method Approaches

Session Convenor: Karen Kellard, The Social Research Centre

The presentations in this session will outline innovative approaches in qualitative research.

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Issues in Educational Research

Session Convenor: Shaun Wilson, Macquarie University

This session will showcase papers that deal with issues in educational research.

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Track: Research technology and tools

Data Visualisation Tools

Session Convenor: Aila Khan, University of Western Sydney

Data visualisation tools can be a powerful methodology in the exploration, analysis and presentation of datasets. In today's world of continuous generation of data - through internet, cameras, satellites - visualisation tools can help in the clear and effective understanding of information. Both quantitative and qualitative datasets can be visually displayed. Although most of the visualisation these days is computer-driven, the concept is not new. Visualisation techniques have been used in the form of paper and pencil drawings, making of physical models and use of photographs. Visualisation helps transmittal of information in such a way that it overcomes social, racial and language barriers.   Main themes / Presentation topics of the session:  Choosing and Preparing a Dataset for Visualisation Multidimensional visualisations (e.g. graphs, charts, scatter plots) Text mining and visualisation tools Using Leximancer to explore data text Crime Mapping Mental Visualisation Spatio-temporal data and map displays Studying consumer behaviour with Geographic Information Systems Opportunities and Challenges in the use of data visualisation techniques From photographs to photo-imaging Use of Virtual Reality models in research

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Free / open source software in social research

Session Convenor: Adam Zammit, ACSPRI

Free/ open source software is computer software that is allowed to be shared, modified and improved. Examples of free software in social research include R, PSPP, Limesurvey, Gephi, NodeXL and Dataverse.  Besides the benefit of usually being free of cost, free software allows the researchers to share improvements with the community and use existing free software infrastructure to implement novel research methods or techniques.  This session aims to showcase the benefits of using free/ open source software for conducting social research. It should benefit those who currently use proprietary software systems, who are interested in free/ open source alternatives or those interested in seeing what can be achieved using free/ open source software.

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ACSPRI Social Science Methodology Conference

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