A vast subject! Suffice it to say that the key to successful international research is to maximise consistency to enable comparison of results across countries. There are several pitfalls, some of which are shown below:

  • Sloppy translation of questionnaire (including poor back-translation)
  • Some phrases simply cannot be translated in the way they are written in English
  • Different interviewer briefings (and interviewer professionalism), leading to different interpretations, in each country
  • Cultural differences across countries
    • Telephone in developed countries vs in-person where telephone penetration is low
    • “Scalar response bias” where some nationalities tend to give higher scores to questions with (for instance) a 5-point scale (Eg Italians score higher than Germans)
  • Client offices in each country having different agendas that are different from the client’s international/global team

A substantial amount of effort is required to ensure that the project and interviewing teams in each country has a clear understanding of why the survey is being conducted, what each question is designed to address, and what deliverables (data, summary report, etc) are required. Detailed written briefing documents, and consistent verbal briefings are essential.

The Project Co-ordinator needs to be willing to work at whatever time is necessary to support the local interviewing team. For instance, this often involves early morning starts when the survey is being conducted in Asia, and evening co-ordination work when the survey covers the Americas.