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Negotiating the Life Course
School of Demography
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
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Frequently Asked Questions


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Why am I being interviewed?

Is my involvement in this study important?

How long will the interview take?

Is this study voluntary?

Must I answer every question?

Why do I need to be interviewed every 3 years?

Why am I asked the same questions each time?

How is my privacy protected?

Who is carrying out the study?

How do I get more information?

What if I miss a year?


Why am I being interviewed?
The study was designed to see how ordinary Australians lives change over time.  In order to do this we needed to speak to a cross-section of the Australian population.  Households were randomly selected in 1996/1997 by using the electronic white pages.  The person aged between 18 and 54 with the next birthday in each of these households was asked to participate.

In 2006 we added 2,000 additional people to the sample to ensure that all parts of the community continued to be represented in the study.  Over the previous 3 rounds of interviews many people had dropped out of the study, some through choice and others moved house or changed their telephone number and we lost contact.  In 2006 random digit dialing was used to contact a representative sample of people, again the person aged between 18 and 63 with the next birthday in each of these households was asked to participate. The upper age limit was changed to reflect the passing years since interviews were first conducted.  We also interviewed a larger number of younger people (aged 18-26) as we no longer had any young adults in the survey.

These procedures to select people were followed to ensure that the results are, as far as possible, representative of the Australian population. Therefore, if you drop out of the study we cannot replace you with another person.

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Is my involvement in this study important?
Your involvement in this study is very important to researchers in Australia.  The data collected is used to assess the way Australians’ manage many facets of their lives and how education, working conditions and retirement can impact people throughout the course of their lives.

The information collected is used to inform government policy makers how their decisions impact the lives of ordinary Australians.  The research team hope that their work can be used by policy makers to better allocate resources to help Australians achieve in all areas of their lives.

How long will the interview take?
The time it takes to complete the interview will depend on your individual circumstances.  On average the interview will last approximately 60 minutes. 

We ask information on a range of topics such as family, education, employment, retirement and income.  The more information that is relevant to your life, the longer the survey will take.  For example if you are married with several children the interview will include some questions about your spouse and your children, and consequently may take a little longer.  If you are retired and live alone the questions in the survey relating to your job and a spouse/partner will not be asked and the interview should be shorter.

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Is this study voluntary?
Your involvement in this study is completely voluntary.  We hope that you will continue to be involved as your commitment to this study will better provide the research team with a clear picture of how Australians negotiate the changes in their lives.

Must I answer every question?
Participation in the survey is voluntary, so if you are uncomfortable with any question asked you can request the interviewer to move on to the next question.  The research team would like to get your input on all questions, but we do understand that some issues may be sensitive to some participants.

Why do I need to be interviewed every 3 years?
One of the aims of this project is to be able to see how Australians adapt to changes in their lives.  This can only be done by interviewing the same people at different times in their lives.  By collecting information every 3 years we can see how finishing your studies, getting married, having a baby, divorcing your spouse or retiring from the workforce affects others areas of your lives.

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Why am I asked the same questions each time?
We ask some standard questions each time we interview you.  That is so we can see how your lives have changed, some people may have changed their job since the last interview or started a new relationship, these are important events in your life and by asking about these same things each interview we can see how these events impact on other areas of your lives.

Over the course of the project some new questions have been added.  In preparation for each round of interviews the research team spends quite a bit of time assessing the questions that were asked at the last interview.  As the project has evolved new issues in the wider Australian community have influenced the team to add sections, on retirement and maternity leave, for example.

How is my privacy protected?
Your identifying information is collected for the purpose of the Negotiating the Life Course study. Access to your identifying information will be restricted to those who require it for the purpose of administering or conducting the study. 

Researchers who use the Negotiating the Life Course data are not able to identify you.  Market researchers do not have access to the data.

The project team are bound by legislation to protect your privacy and your involvement with the study is also protected by The Australian National University Ethics Committee.

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Who is carrying out the study?
The study is undertaken by the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute, located at The Australian National University and the School of Social Science at The University of Queensland.

Researchers from the Australian Institute of Family Studies are involved in the design of the interview questions, as well as conducting analyses using the data collection on a regular basis.

How do I get more information?
If you want to get more information, please telephone (02) 6125 1549 or email nlc@anu.edu.au. Should you have any concerns about the conduct of this study, you are welcome to contact Human Ethics at The Australian National University at the following link (http://www.anu.edu.au/ro/ORI/Human/human_index.php), by email (Research.Office@anu.edu.au), or you could call them on (02) 6125 0099.

What if I miss a year?
If you miss a year we will lose valuable information about the course your life has taken.  We will make every effort to contact you for the next round of interviews, but after 6 years has passed it is not always easy to contact some of our participants - people move home, change phone numbers and/or change their names.  You can help by keeping your contact details up to date, and by supplying the interviewer with the name and phone number of a family member or friend who will know how to get in contact with you.

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