Household panels in general - and the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) in particular - can serve as reference data for researchers collecting datasets that do not represent the full universe of the population of interest (e.g., through clinical trials, intervention studies, laboratory and behavioural experiments, and cohort studies). It is an unique feature of the Research Data Center of SOEP to provide tailored advice to researchers who want to use SOEP as a reference data set respectively as a control sample for their own studies. This service includes advice to researchers to design their own longitudinal studies.
While the SOEP questionnaire is an important component of the overall SOEP survey, we would like to point out that certain survey techniques such as the tracking rule in panel studies make it possible to follow not only cohort members but also their children (and grandchildren), spouses, and other related persons over time.
Thus, in addition to recommendations for which questions to incorporate into a particular survey, the SOEP survey group can also provide advice on other aspects of how to conduct a survey.
Here we present a comprehensive list of SOEP core questions that we recommend researchers to consider when collecting their own data. We focus on seven topics: (1) demographic and parental characteristics; (2) labour market; (3) health; (4) personality, preferences, and subjective orientations; (5) subjective wellbeing; (6) political involvement and participation, and finally, a set of core questions for young children before they enter school. Of course the selection of a minimum set of questions depends on the research question.
Using SOEP questions is easy, but selecting the best questions for a given project is often more difficult. The SOEP survey group is more than happy to provide advice. But due to our finite staff capacities, consultations must be planned well in advance.
For more information see: Thomas Siedler, Jürgen Schupp, C. Katharina Spieß, and Gert G. Wagner. 2009. The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) as Reference Data Set. Schmollers Jahrbuch 129(2): 367 - 374.