The purpose of this report is to describe the association between fieldwork-related factors and the quality of the data collected in the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) program. Broadly, the findings of this report confirm expectations: fieldwork in rural areas is often subject to more data quality concerns, and care must be taken to ensure that language does not pose a barrier to the collection of high-quality data. More specifically, the results provide opportunities for individual countries to examine the results in light of their field practices and make adjustments as needed for future DHS surveys.
General recommendations derived from these results are already standard practice in the DHS surveys:
1. All due emphasis should be placed on hiring interviewers based on their knowledge of local languages, proportional to the distribution of languages among clusters.
2. Ensuring that questionnaires are translated into as many local languages as practicable is likely to be a useful step toward improving data quality.
3. The beginning and end of the fieldwork period may be particularly sensitive times, as interviewers are first learning the practice in the beginning and, toward the end of fieldwork, may be fatigued and want to go back to their families. These realities call for increased, careful supervision of fieldwork during these sensitive periods, with an eye to ensuring that fieldworkers have the support that they need to do their job well.
Care must be taken when interpreting these descriptive findings, with thoughtful consideration given to the country-specific context in which the results were obtained. Nevertheless, the information presented in this report may help DHS staff and implementing agencies to identify country-specific fieldwork practices that could be modified to improve data quality.
While there are several key general recommendations for ensuring the quality of DHS data, it is critical that implementing agencies and DHS staff alike ensure a continuous assessment of the situation on the ground during the fieldwork period. Ensuring rapid feedback from the field allows for course adjustments to be made in an efficient manner, thus maintaining the highest possible standards of data quality.