• Presentation

New Approaches to Field Tracing Developed for the ECLS-B


Saleska, E. L., Erickson, L., & Meehan, A. (2007, May). New Approaches to Field Tracing Developed for the ECLS-B. Presented at International Field Directors and Technologies Conference, Santa Monica, CA.


Locating panel members is a challenging aspect of longitudinal studies. A clear plan for tracing respondents must be developed to ensure that all methods of finding the respondent are utilized. Communication between field and in-house tracing staff can also be a roadblock if the exchange of information is not planned and monitored.This presentation will review specific tracing techniques and identify key features of a system that was developed to trace respondents of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), during the third round of data collection. The ECLS-B is a field study funded by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to gather information on children’s development, home environment, health, and education. The study follows a nationally representative sample of over 14,000 children from 9 months old through the first grade.Approximately 33% of the cohort (n=3,034) required some form of tracing. The ECLS-B completed interviews with ~74% of cases that required some type of tracing. To maximize locate rates, strategies were reviewed prior to data collection to identify successful techniques. Those strategies were highlighted in interviewer manuals and training sessions. A comprehensive checklist was developed to use when attempting to locate respondents. Field Supervisors were also involved in field tracing, conducting Internet searches and reviewing tracing steps that interviewers completed. If field staff could not locate respondents through these methods, case information was sent to our in-house tracing unit. A system was developed to streamline communication between the field and our tracing unit, which linked the case management systems of field staff and the tracing unit with web-based reports. This system helped to ensure that both field and tracing staff received all pertinent information, and eliminated the need for difficult to manage processes, such as e-mail which can be cumbersome to keep up with. This type of system may be useful for other field studies facing the task of sharing tracing information among decentralized staff.