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The Survey: Methodology

The PUNS report was based on a sample survey of the archaeological community in Britain and Ireland consisting of a self-administered mail questionnaire, in conjunction with 40 semi-structured face-to-face interviews. The interviews were undertaken to examine the values and expectations which inform attitudes towards fieldwork publication. These two main methods were supplemented by the consultation of independent sources (such as citation records and frequency of use in libraries), as well as by information from groups such as editors and publishers.

Care was taken to ensure that regional and national variations were appropriately addressed in the questionnaire, and that a representative crosssection of the archaeological community was sampled.

The sample encompassed the following constituencies:

The questionnaire was structured to ensure that the approaches and attitudes of each of these archaeological sectors could be separately identified.

The lay audience in general was not included in the survey.

The Survey: Respondents

It was important to ensure a good response rate. A low response rate (less than 20%) has been shown to be a significant source of bias in many surveys, as those who respond most readily often represent the practices and views of sectors of the wider population with particular interests and agendas. Out of 2,668 forms dispatched, 878 were returned and 795 (30% of the total) were usable, a figure which is regarded as average for self-administered mail questionnaire surveys.

Fig 1
Figure 1: Numbers of responses by country/region (Q1.1)

The response rates for different areas varied from 23% for Scotland to 53% for Southern England (Fig 1). This could be due to a variety of factors, but given that a response rate of c 50% or more is regarded as an indicator of a highly motivated survey population, it can be suggested that respondents in England and Northern Ireland feel greater levels of concern about the problems of disseminating the results of fieldwork projects than do colleagues in Scotland. Such an interpretation is in part supported by data provided in response to a number of questions.

Fig 2
Figure 2: Bar chart showing the types of archaeological publication to which respondents have directly contributed (Q1.8)

Analysis suggests that the speed with which responses were submitted was not a significant source of bias. On this basis it can be argued that a higher level of response would not have made any significant difference to the overall results.

Of the total respondents, 73% described themselves as engaged in active research, and over half stated that they had directly contributed to fieldwork publications (68%) and/or syntheses focusing on particular subjects, nations/regions or periods (54%). A further 48% had contributed to a popular archaeological publication (Fig 2). This shows a good balance between those involved in producing fieldwork publications and those who will be using them, while the sample also embraces those who are involved in both.

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Last updated: Tue Oct 21 2003