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New Methodical Findings on D-Efficient Factorial Survey Designs: Impacts of Design Resolution on Aliasing and Sample Size



In empirical surveys, finding a sufficient number of respondents can be challenging. For factorial survey experiments, drawing a vignette-sample ("fraction") from a vignette-universe can reduce the minimum number of respondents required. Vignette-samples can be drawn by applying D-efficient designs. Theoretically, D-efficient resolution V designs are ideal. Due to reasons of practicability, however, resolution IV designs have usually been applied in empirical social research and are considered to be sufficient when it is clear up front, which two-way interactions are likely to have an effect. Against this backdrop, this article focusses on two research questions: (1) In resolution IV designs, are those two-way interactions that are not orthogonalized truly not aliased with any main effects? (2) How does design resolution affect the minimum size of the vignette-sample that is necessary for achieving an adequate level of D-efficiency? These questions are examined by applying SAS-macros for computing D-efficient samples, pre-construction assessment and post-construction evaluation. The resulting aliasing structures indicate a discrepancy between previous definitions of design resolutions and the aliasing structures of designs resulting from the SAS-macros. Additionally, they suggest taking a second look at the assumption that higher resolutions or larger vignette universes will always necessitate designs with larger vignette-samples (and thus larger sets or more respondents).
DOI: 10.12758/mda .2 021.13
methods, data, analyses | 2021, pp. 1-19
New Methodical Findings on D-Efficient
Factorial Survey Designs: Impacts of
Design Resolution on Aliasing and Sample
Julia Kleinewiese
Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES),
University of Mannheim
In empirical surveys, finding a sufficient number of respondents can be challenging. For
factorial survey experiments, drawing a vignette-sample (“fraction”) from a vignette-uni-
verse can reduce the minimum number of respondents required. Vignette-samples can be
drawn by applying D-efficient designs. Theoretically, D-efficient resolution V designs are
ideal. Due to reasons of practicability, however, resolution IV designs have usually been
applied in empirical social research and are considered to be sufficient when it is clear up
front, which two-way interactions are likely to have an effect. Against this backdrop, this
article focusses on two research questions: (1) In resolution IV designs, are those two-way
interactions that are not orthogonalized truly not aliased with any main effects? (2) How
does design resolution affect the minimum size of the vignette-sample that is necessary
for achieving an adequate level of D-efficiency? These questions are examined by apply-
ing SAS-macros for computing D-efficient samples, pre-construction assessment and post-
construction evaluation. The resulting aliasing structures indicate a discrepancy between
previous definitions of design resolutions and the aliasing structures of designs resulting
from the SAS-macros. Additionally, they suggest taking a second look at the assumption
that higher resolutions or larger vignette universes will always necessitate designs with
larger vignette-samples (and thus larger sets or more respondents).
Keywords: D-efficiency, design resolution, sample size, factorial survey, aliasing, con-
found ing
© The Author(s) 2021. This is an Open Access ar ticle distributed under the term s of the
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Any fu rther distribut ion of this work must
maintain attribution to the author(s) and the title of the work, journal citation a nd DOI.
methods, data, analyses | 2021, pp.
Direct correspondence to
Julia Kleinewiese, Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES),
University of Mannheim, 68131 Mannheim, Germany.
When collecting quantitative data, a major issue is finding a sufficient number
of respondents (cf. Engel & Schmidt, 2019). Factorial surveys offer some unique
opportunities based on design, such as reducing the number of required respon-
dents, but also challenges that need to be considered carefully – from the design-
stage onwards. Factorial survey vignettes are an established method in quantita-
tive social science research measuring attitudes or behaviour. Methodical research
implies that vignettes can have a high external validity, i.e. are suitable for measur-
ing real-life attitudes and behaviour (Hainmueller et al., 2015) but may sometimes
run into issues, such as social desirability bias (Eifler, 2007; Eifler et al., 2014).
Nevertheless, they are especially important for research that cannot be conducted
in real-life, due to practical or ethical considerations (such as research on crime and
violence; e.g. Verneuer, 2020).
This article aims to contribute towards the growing methodical literature on
factorial survey designs in a way that makes it easier for researchers without exten-
sive expertise in this area to clearly understand, implement and reflect on design
decisions and their consequences for analyses. Because specific (e.g. D-efficient)
designs are becoming increasingly popular due to allowing for the practical imple-
mentation of vignettes with a large number of dimensions (and/or levels), i.e. a large
overall vignette-universe, it is important that clear design categories (for important
features such as orthogonality) are offered – to prevent avoidable mistakes during
the design-stage.
The findings in this article are new in the sense that they are not intuitively
drawn from previous literature, although experts sometimes take them into account
automatically. This article exemplifies “new” important aspects that foreground
both the “benefits” and “dangers” of D-efficient designs to help researchers to (I.)
optimize their designs (e.g. reduce sample sizes, avoid misspecifications) as well as
(II.) reflect on their designs and possible implications for their analyses as well as
interpretation of results.
In factorial surveys, it is common to divide the vignettes into sets and present
each respondent with such a set, thus, gaining more than one response per person
for the dependent variable(s). Hence, a smaller number of respondents is required
(cf. Atzmüller & Steiner, 2010). In combination with this or on its own, a smaller
vignette-sample, a “fraction”, is sometimes drawn from the overall universe. This
can be extremely useful for reducing the number of respondents that are required
but it also implicates new aspects that must be addressed in depth to ensure that e.g.
the internal validity of the experiment is upheld and estimates in the analysis are
not biased as a result of the design (Auspurg & Hinz, 2015). To date, random proce-
Kleinewiese: New Methodical Findings on D-Efficient Factorial Survey Designs
dures have been the ‘go to’ method for allocating vignettes to sets and for drawing
Nevertheless, drawing random vignette-samples comes with some drawbacks,
which can be especially meaningful when the sample size is relatively small (see
e.g. Auspurg & Hinz, 2015); with random designs, we have no means of controlling
two of the important properties of the experimental design: Orthogonality and level
balance. To tackle this issue, some researchers have been examining and apply-
ing quota designs, including D-efficient designs. Such methods have been widely
investigated and applied in a related type of survey experiment, in discrete choice
experiments (DCEs), which are applied mostly by economists (e.g. Louviere et al.,
2000; see e.g. Gundlach et al. [2018] for a sociological DCE). Unlike the case of
DCEs, for factorial surveys, the research on this method of selecting, for example, a
sample of vignettes from the universe is very limited (but see e.g. Auspurg & Hinz,
2015; Dülmer, 2015, 2007; Kuhfeld, 2003). Much of this research has focussed
on comparing D-efficient designs with random sample designs. Such research is
highly valuable for illuminating what the advantages and drawbacks of each proce-
dure are. This article seeks to take this research as a point of departure from which
to present accessible methodological information on D-efficient designs.
Currently, there is only a small amount of research that focuses specifically on
D-efficiency in factorial surveys. The examination of the method as well as its pro-
cedures has focused primarily on comparing different features (including D-effi-
ciency itself) of D-efficient and random vignette-samples (e.g. Auspurg & Hinz,
2015; Dülmer, 2007). The current article builds on such previous research. The two
research aims are specifically oriented towards the concept of design resolution:
(1) To discuss discrepancies between conceptualizations of resolution IV designs
and their implementability with SAS1; (2) to examine how the resolution – III, IV
(with 1, 3 or 5 two-way interactions orthogonalized) and V – affects the minimum
size of the vignette-sample that is necessary to still achieve an adequate level of
D-efficiency (over 90).
It is for the aforementioned reasons that the current focus is placed on design
resolution of D-efficient factorial surveys. The theory section gives a general over-
view of the research field on factorial survey D-efficiency while the application sec-
tion exemplifies issues regarding design resolutions of D-efficient vignette-samples
and their implications for confounding as well as sample size (e.g. Kuhfeld, 2003).
The steps are as follows: First, a brief overview of factorial survey designs is pre-
sented, introducing factorial surveys and describing different methods for drawing
samples of vignettes as well as the concomitant (dis-)advantages. This is followed,
1 The SAS-version that I am referring to in this article is “SAS OnDemand for Academ-
ics – SAS Studio” which is a cloud/online version. Since it is free for all academics it
is used very frequently. I refer to it as “SAS” but the assessments and comments made
may not hold true for other versions of the software.
methods, data, analyses | 2021, pp.
by a “state of the art” section on D-efficiency in factorial surveys that includes the
theoretical premises that are of importance for the subsequent section: The applica-
tion (using SAS-macros). This section focuses on the discrepancies between con-
ceptualization and SAS-implementation regarding confounding (aliasing) struc-
tures of “resolution IV” designs and on how design resolution impacts the size of
the smallest possible vignette-sample that can be constructed from a given full fac-
torial. This section is succeeded by a discussion of the results and a brief conclusion
that presents the general implications and recommendations for future research on
and with D-efficient factorial survey designs.
Factorial Survey Designs
Factorial Survey Methodology
A factorial survey systematically varies dimensions in scenarios and presents the
resulting vignettes to respondents (e.g. Auspurg et al., 2015; Wallander, 2009;
Steiner & Atzmüller, 2006; Beck & Opp, 2001; Alexander & Becker, 1978). A
parallel between factorial surveys and experiments lies in the condition that the
researcher controls the “treatments” (dimensions), so that they can be measured
independent of each other (cf. Auspurg et al., 2009; Rossi & Anderson, 1982). By
means of varying the dimensions’ levels, the factorial survey allows direct deduc-
tions concerning the dependent variable’s variations, as the effects of unobserved
variables are eliminated (Dickel & Graeff, 2016). All levels of a dimension need to
be clearly distinct from each other. The vignette universe (vignette population/full
factorial) is made up of all the vignettes resulting from each possible combination
of the dimensions’ levels (Auspurg & Hinz, 2015; Atzmüller & Steiner, 2010; Rossi
& Anderson, 1982). In order to avoid dimensions that are composites of a number of
attributes, high numbers of dimensions must be selected for some factorial surveys
(see Hainmueller et al., 2014). Furthermore, some studies need a high number of
levels for one or more dimensions (e.g. due to content-related or analyses require-
ments). A large number of dimensions and/or levels quickly leads to a very large
vignette universe.
The dependent variable is frequently measured on a scale, as a rating score in
response to a question (Dickel & Graeff, 2016) regarding the vignette. Frequently,
11-point scales are used (Dülmer, 2014; Wallander, 2009). Usually, additional
respondent-specific data are collected and can be included in the analysis of the
vignette evaluations (Steiner & Atzmüller, 2006). The aim of statistical analyses
is determining the effect of each dimension (and often some interactions) in regard
to the respondents’ judgments as well as identifying and explaining the differences
Kleinewiese: New Methodical Findings on D-Efficient Factorial Survey Designs
between respondents or groups of respondents (Auspurg & Hinz, 2015; Auspurg et
al., 2015; Steiner & Atzmüller, 2006; Beck & Opp, 2001).
If sufficient numbers of respondents are available, every vignette from a
vignette universe should be judged by at least five respondents (because if e.g. only
one person rates a vignette it is completely confounded with their personal features)
(Auspurg & Hinz, 2015). However, with a rising number of vignettes, it becomes
increasingly difficult to recruit the necessary number of respondents. There are two
solutions which have been prioritized in factorial survey applications, separately
or in combination: (1) dividing the overall number of vignettes into sets of equal
size or (2) selecting only a sample of the vignettes from the universe (cf. Steiner &
Atzmüller, 2006).
Forming sets (decks/blocks) with a specific number of vignettes has the
advantage that one can greatly reduce the number of respondents required. With
this proceeding, each respondent only answers one set of vignettes. Vignettes can
be assigned to sets through experimental variation or random allocation (with or
without replacement) (cf. Steiner & Atzmüller, 2006). For optimal distribution, the
vignette universe should be a whole multiple of the set size (number of vignettes per
set) (Atzmüller & Steiner, 2017; Auspurg & Hinz, 2015). As respondents presum-
ably differ in their assessment tendencies, the measurements are not independent
across all vignette-responses. The equivalent variance component is incorporated
in the statistical analysis through the modelling of a set effect. Auspurg and Hinz
(2015) state: “[] some parameters become confounded with deck effects [… but]
When all decks are rated by several respondents […] these parameters remain iden-
tifiable in estimations across respondents” (p. 39).
There are several methods for selecting a sample of vignettes from the uni-
verse. Steiner and Atzmüller (2006) argue that in the case of randomly drawn (sets
of) vignettes, a very complex interaction structure is formed, which may lead to
considerable interpretation problems in regard to the estimable effects; they declare
that the common implicit assumption that the interaction effects mixed in the effects
of interest are equal to zero, is generally an unsatisfactory solution.
This brief introduction to the current state of factorial survey research – par-
ticularly its design – provides a basis for understanding the particular methodical
design-aspects that are of relevance to the goals of this article. In order to provide
insights into other design options and what (not) to do, a number of aspects regard-
ing the design of vignette studies will, subsequently, be described in more detail.
All of this shows why the current aims are relevant and provides sufficient knowl-
edge for comprehension of the applied section. The following section gives a brief
overview of the different proceedings for drawing a sample of vignettes from the
overall vignette universe.
methods, data, analyses | 2021, pp.
Methods for Drawing Vignette-Samples
There are two important properties of the experimental design regarding the
vignette universe as well as vignette-samples: The first property is orthogonality. A
matrix is orthogonal when the single columns are not correlated with one another.
This enables independent (from each other) estimation of the effects of the fac-
tors (cf. Auspurg & Hinz, 2015). Thus, for a factorial survey design, orthogonal-
ity means that the dimensions (and their interactions) do not correlate with each
other (Auspurg & Hinz, 2015; Atzmüller & Steiner, 2010; Taylor, 2006; Rossi &
Anderson, 1982); “[] it enables the researcher to estimate the influence of single
dimensions independently of each other” (Auspurg & Hinz, 2015, p. 25). A vignette
universe (full factorial) is always orthogonal. The second property is level balance.
Level balance means that all levels (of every dimension) occur with equal frequen-
cies. Level balance indicates that maximum variance (of the levels) can be used
to estimate the effect of each dimension, which leads to the lowest standard errors
and, therefore, maximizes the precision of the parameter estimates (cf. Auspurg &
Hinz, 2015).
The Cartesian product of dimensions and levels equals the size of the vignette
universe. If each respondent judges all vignettes from a universe, the factors are
orthogonal to one another in their composition (Dülmer, 2007). In factorial sur-
veys, each person usually only responds to a selected number of vignettes from
the universe. This can be achieved through dividing the universe into vignette-sets
of equal size (“blocking”) and presenting each respondent with one set only, oth-
erwise, by selecting a sample of vignettes from the universe (or both of the afore-
This section focusses on drawing samples from a vignette universe – pre-
senting methods for drawing such vignette-samples. There are two categories into
which techniques for attaining samples fall: (1) Random samples are predomi-
nantly used to attain a vignette-sample from the universe (the aim is to represent
its possible level combinations as closely as can be achieved), however, (2) quota
designs can also be applied (Dülmer, 2007).
(1) Random samples can be drawn once (in sets) and then judged by several
respondents (clustered random design) or they can be drawn uniquely for each
respondent (simple random design with or without replacement). The former pro-
cedure ensures – given a sufficient number of respondents – several ratings of each
included vignette (cf. Jasso, 2006). Each of these strategies has its advantages and
its disadvantages. Drawing only once and presenting the resulting sets to several
respondents is advisable when one is interested in respondent-specific variation in
the vignette-judgements. However, a wider overall portion of the vignette universe
is very likely to be achieved when a unique deck is drawn for each respondent
(Jasso, 2006).
Kleinewiese: New Methodical Findings on D-Efficient Factorial Survey Designs
(2) Quota samples are commonly used in conjoint analysis and discrete choice
experiments (cf. Dülmer, 2007). There are two types that have been applied fre-
quently: Fractional factorial designs (e.g. Marshall & Bradlow, 2002) and D-effi-
cient designs (e.g. Kuhfeld et al., 1994). In both variants, the vignette-sample is
drawn only once (and then usually divided into sets). Quota sampling utilizes the
available knowledge on the statistical properties of the universe in order to select
the vignette-sample (of a given size) that most closely/ideally upholds these proper-
ties (cf. Dülmer, 2007).
A fractional factorial design is a symmetrical orthogonal design when the
vignette universe properties of equal level frequencies (symmetrical/balanced)
and orthogonality of all factors (e.g. dimensions, interactions) are upheld. It is an
asymmetrical orthogonal design when it does not have absolute level frequency
but preserves orthogonality because one dimension’s levels occur with proportional
frequency to the other dimensions’ levels (Dülmer, 2007).
D-efficient designs relax the rule that a (sample-)design must be perfectly
orthogonal. Symmetrical orthogonal designs (perfect level balance as well as
orthogonality) represent the vignette universe most closely and minimize param-
eter estimates’ variance. D-efficiency chooses symmetrical orthogonal designs as a
point of reference and is, thus, “a standard measure of goodness” (Dülmer, 2007, p.
387) for jointly assessing both orthogonality and level balance, which increases the
precision of estimates of the parameters in statistical analyses (Auspurg & Hinz,
Designs that have a D-efficiency of 100 are also (fractional factorial) symmet-
rical orthogonal designs (Dülmer, 2007) because they are orthogonal and exhibit
level balance. When this is not the case, the best “compromise” between the aims
of orthogonality and level balance is searched for (D-efficiency will then be lower
than 100). When orthogonal coding has been applied to the vignettes, the range of
D-efficiency is 0-100 (see e.g. Dülmer, 2007; Kuhfeld, 1997; Kuhfeld et al., 1994).
There are a number of ‘pros and cons’ regarding the methods that can be used
for selecting a subsample from a vignette universe. From the statistical perspective,
reasons why quota designs should be favoured over random designs are their higher
efficiency, reliability and power. However, these arguments are primarily applicable
for studies that use a fairly low set size, where the selected design is highly D-effi-
cient and quite a high unexplained inter-respondent heterogeneity is to be expected.
On the other hand, quota designs can be less valid than random designs; this is most
likely when using designs with a low resolution (Dülmer, 2007). In consequence,
what type of design is the most expedient for a study can vary – depending on, for
instance, the respondent sample and the amount of resources available for imple-
menting the survey. In the past, a majority of factorial survey studies used random
designs (Wallander, 2009). However, increasingly D-efficient designs are becoming
methods, data, analyses | 2021, pp.
more popular. The remaining sections of this article, therefore, focus exclusively on
D-efficient designs.
Taking the preceding overview as a point of departure, this section provides a more
in-depth elaboration of D-efficiency. It begins with a general section on D-efficient
designs that is followed by subsections on sample size as well as design resolution.
This constitutes the final theoretical building block for assessing the implications
in the applied section.
D-Efficient Designs
When one applies (D-)efficiency-maximizing methods for finding a suitable
vignette-sample, one should be able to reach the same amount of precision as with
random sampling but with fewer respondents and/or vignettes per set. Moreover,
it can be easier to reach and asses the goal that all parameters of interest can be
identified. Against this background, an objective is to find a fraction of the vignette
universe with maximal gain of information, about all parameters that are of rel-
evance for the research aim(s).
The previously described combination of considering both orthogonality and
level balance can be specified in regard to optimizing D-efficiency: The goal is
maximizing the variance of the dimensions’ levels while simultaneously minimiz-
ing the correlations between the factors (e.g. dimensions, interactions). The equiva-
lent optimums are level balance and orthogonality.
D-efficiency contains (is reliant on) the Fisher Information Matrix (FIM)
[X’X], where X indicates a vector (of vignette variables) (Auspurg & Hinz, 2015;
Kuhfeld et al., 1994). There are other measures of efficiency (such as A-efficiency;
a function of the arithmetic mean of the X’X matrix) than D-efficiency, which is
based on the geometric mean of the matrix. However, these efficiency measures are
usually highly correlated with each other and D-efficiency is used most frequently
(Auspurg & Hinz, 2015; Kuhfeld, 1997). The formula for D-efficiency is as follows
[p=parameters to be estimated (including the intercept); ns=number of vignettes in
the fraction; |X’X|=FIM]:
D-efficiency 100 1
100 1
(Auspurg & Hinz, 2015; Dülmer, 2007; Kuhfeld et al., 1994)
Kleinewiese: New Methodical Findings on D-Efficient Factorial Survey Designs
Fewer dimensions (or other estimated parameters e.g. 2-way-interactions) reduce
the correlation of parameters with each other. Larger vignette-samples, from a
vignette universe of a given size, (sample-sizes prescribe the degrees of freedom
for parameter estimates) decrease covariation (and, therefore, correlations) between
dimensions, increasing precision of parameter estimates. The FIM reflects how
high the information is for parameter estimates. The information matrix is the
inverse of the variance-covariance matrix.
As stated in subsection Methods for drawing vignette-samples, when the
dimensions’ levels from a universe are in orthogonal coding, the maximum D-effi-
ciency that can be reached is 100. To elaborate upon this: Methodical literature
states that a D-efficiency over 90 should be sufficient for experimental survey
designs in the social sciences (Auspurg & Hinz, 2015).
The more efficient a design is, the fewer vignette-judgements one requires to
achieve the same (level of) statistical power:
Efficiencies are typically stated in relative terms, as in design A is 80% as
efficient as design B. In practical terms this means you will need 25% more
(the reciprocal of 80%) design A observations (respondents, choice sets per
respondent or a combination of both) to get the same standard errors and
significances as with the more efficient design B. (Chrzan & Orme, 2000, p.
Sample Size
When the size of a vignette-sample from a given universe increases it becomes
more likely that one can reach a high D-efficiency. Auspurg and Hinz (2015) state
that this leads to a trade-off because – given a fixed number of respondents and set
size – the number of respondents per set decreases. However, an additional option
is that one could increase the set size (even if this can increase the design effect; for
more information on the design effect see e.g. Auspurg & Hinz, 2015, pp. 50-55).
The smallest possible vignette-sample is the number of parameters that are to
be estimated plus one. The smallest sample is normally very inefficient and does
not fulfill the criteria of a D-efficiency over 90 (cf. Auspurg & Hinz, 2015).
In Auspurg and Hinz’ (2015) comparison of random vignette-samples and
D-efficient vignette-samples, using two different vignette universes, the D-efficient
designs are always more efficient. The differences are especially high for small
vignette-samples and decrease as the sample size increases. The maximum correla-
tions of the random samples are much higher than those of the D-efficient samples,
meaning that the random samples’ dimensions (experimental factors) loose much
of their independency, threatening internal validity. D-efficient samples usually
exhibit higher variance (of levels within each dimension), which means higher sta-
methods, data, analyses | 2021, pp.
tistical power for correctly identifying the effects of the dimensions. Due to hardly
any randomness in the selection of the vignette-sample, the variation in the D-effi-
ciency of (same-sized) D-efficient vignette-samples over several “tries” is very low
in comparison to the variation exhibited by random samples.
Design Resolution
While small vignette sample size with a D-efficiency of 100 ensures that the dimen-
sions (main effects) are orthogonal to each other and have level balance (in esti-
mation: standard errors are minimized; statistical efficiency is maximized), this is
still likely to lead to biased estimates if relevant two-way (or higher) interactions
are not negligible. If such interaction effects are not specified in a design, but do
have an effect, this leads to confounding of main and interaction effects. This can
bias the estimations of the main effects and rules out the estimation of the interac-
tion effects. If main effects are biased, this leads to biased (in some cases entirely
false) interpretations of the data (Auspurg, 2018). For this reason, it is important
to consider, which effects have been orthogonalized in a D-efficient design. Com-
monly, this has been approximated by applying the categorization of designs into
Resolution identifies which effects are estimable. For resolution III designs,
all main effects are estimable free of each other, but some of them are con-
founded with two-factor interactions. For resolution IV designs, all main
effects are estimable free of each other and free of all two-factor interactions,
but some two-factor interactions are confounded with other two-factor inter-
actions. For resolution V designs, all main effects and two-factor interactions
are estimable free of each other. (Kuhfeld, 2003, p. 237)
D-efficiency is always measured relatively to the selected design resolution. When
the orthogonally coded levels of a dimension (in a given vignette-fraction) are com-
pletely identical with those of a 2-/3-/4-way interaction then, statistically, they are
entirely correlated and their effects cannot be separated in the analysis i.e. they
are completely “confounded” or “aliased”. This can also include the intercept. The
coefficients of main effects that are aliased with interaction effects are only esti-
mable (unbiased) if those interaction effects have no effect (effect = 0) on the depen-
dent variable. If the wrong assumptions are made this results in biased estimates of
the (main) effects (cf. Auspurg & Hinz, 2015).
In marketing research, resolution III designs (also termed “orthogonal
arrays”) are mostly used (Kuhfeld, 2003). However, in the social sciences, one
should always consider possible two-way interactions that might have an effect (e.g.
Auspurg, 2018). While, therefore, it seems advisable to use resolution V designs in
sociological research, to date, resolution IV designs have usually been applied. This
Kleinewiese: New Methodical Findings on D-Efficient Factorial Survey Designs
can be sufficient, however, when using resolution IV designs the researcher should
be aware that this might cause biased results if they err in the assumption that the
confounded interactions are negligible.
The rules for which level of factors can be estimated independently from
one another (or part of the factors from a level; e.g. resolution IV designs) differ,
depending on whether or not the number of the resolution (r) is (1) odd – e.g. resolu-
tions III and V – or (2) even – e.g. resolution IV. The general rule for the former (1)
is that all effects of order e = (r − 1)/2 or below are estimable independently from
one another but at least some of the effects of order e are aliased with interactions
of order e + 1. In the latter case (2) the rule is slightly different: Effects of order e =
(r − 2)/2 are estimable independently from one another and also from interactions
of order e + 1 (Kuhfeld, 2005).
Much previous research has been conducted under the assumption that higher
resolutions will always necessitate designs with larger vignette-samples (e.g. Kuh-
feld, 2003, 2005). Moreover, research has increasingly questioned the primacy
given to maximizing the efficiency of designs, arguing that unbiased estimation of
effects should be the superior goal (Auspurg, 2018; Czymara & Schmidt-Catran,
2018). Minimizing (possible) bias in estimation of effects requires using higher
design resolutions.
Application with SAS-Macros
This section turns towards a practical application, examining examples of imple-
mentations of D-efficient factorial survey designs using SAS-macros. D-efficient
factorial survey designs in the social sciences are normally constructed by means
of computer algorithms. In sociology, the SAS-macros written by Warren F. Kuh-
feld (for more details see e.g. Kuhfeld, 2003) are commonly used (see e.g. Auspurg
& Hinz, 2015; Dülmer, 2007). These macros enable the computation of D-efficient
samples and sets as well as pre-construction assessment and post-construction eval-
uation. A number of details regarding the design can also be evaluated in varying
detail (e.g. correlations, aliasing structure).
Proceedings: The Design and the Macros
I used the SAS-macros %mktruns and %mktex to test my propositions. My first
aim was to use the SAS macros to try and construct resolution IV designs that
fulfil the conceptual requirements that Kuhfeld (2003, p. 237) defined. I selected
a 28 = 256 vignettes universe because I presume that this simple structure is very
useful for assessing aliasing structures. I used the macros to construct a fraction
with a D-efficiency of 100, thus, 0 violations (of orthogonality and level balance)
methods, data, analyses | 2021, pp.
and a sample size of n=16 vignettes. I included one two-way interaction-effect to be
orthogonalized (x1*x2). I documented the aliasing scheme of the design, in order
be able to assess whether or not the properties postulated in literature are present. I
then repeated this procedure for two more resolution IV designs – one design with
3 two-way interactions (x1*x2 x2*x3 x3*x4) and one with 5 two-way interactions
(x1*x2 x2*x3 x3*x4 x4*x5 x5*x6). Both of these designs also had a D-efficiency of
100, 0 violations and a vignette-sample size of n=16.
For my second research aim, which focusses on the relationship of design res-
olution and sample size, I selected three vignette universes: 44 = 256, 4421 = 512
and 4422 = 1024. The number of dimensions and their levels for the first universe
were selected due to a specific research interest in this structure and the others each
add one more two-level dimension, causing each universe to be twice as large as
the previous one. This, of course, could have been done differently. I searched for
the smallest possible vignette-sample with a D-efficiency as close as possible to
100 for each universe. I constructed five designs for each universe, documenting
the sample size, the D-efficiency and the number of violations. The first fraction
for each universe was a resolution III design. The second, third and fourth designs
were always of resolution IV (according to SAS). Three designs were selected from
resolution IV because this resolution can be used to describe the inclusion of vari-
ous numbers of two-way interactions, from merely one (more than resolution III)
to all but one (less than resolution V). The objective was to see if there is a large
difference between the minimum sample sizes of resolution IV designs, depending
on how many interactions are fixed as orthogonalized in a design. The first of these
designs orthogonalizes one two-way interaction (x1*x2), the next design three two-
way interactions (x1*x2 x1*x3 x1*x4) followed by a design with five two-way inter-
actions (x1*x2 x1*x3 x1*x4 x2*x3 x2*x4). These three steps were chosen because
five is the highest number of two-way interactions possible in the first vignette uni-
verse as a resolution IV design (since that is one below 6 two-way interactions,
which would be a resolution V design for the first vignette universe). As a final step,
a resolution V design was computed and documented for each vignette universe.
Resolution IV Aliasing
Regarding the three resolution IV designs that were supposed to be computed for
the first research aim, I find that no main effects are aliased with one another. Fur-
thermore, orthogonalized interactions are not aliased with main effects or other
orthogonalized interactions. However, some other two-way interactions are aliased
with main effects, orthogonalized interactions and interactions that were not speci-
fied to be orthogonal. This, in effect, does not qualify the designs to be of resolu-
Kleinewiese: New Methodical Findings on D-Efficient Factorial Survey Designs
tion IV (for this, none of the two-way interactions should be aliased with any main
effects) but rather only to be of resolution III. The result is that for this vignette
universe, it would have only been possible to use SAS to compute a resolution III or
a resolution V design, in accordance with Kuhfeld’s definition (2003, p. 237).
Resolutions and Sample Sizes
Table 1 depicts the smallest sample sizes, the D-efficiencies of the samples as well
as the violations for each universe when a resolution III design is chosen. For each
of the three vignette universes, the sample size is n=16 for the smallest possible size
with an adequate D-efficiency (over 90 and as close as possible to 100). The frac-
tions in Table 1 all have a D-efficiency of 100 and, therefore, have 0 violations (of
orthogonality and level balance).
Table 2 gives an overview of the sample sizes, the D-efficiencies of the
vignette-samples and the violations for the three designs that fall into the cate-
gory “resolution IV”. As shown below, the first and second design-types (1 and 3
two-way interactions) are the same across all vignette universes and in regard to
each other. The smallest possible sample size always consists of 64 vignettes, has
a D-efficiency of 100 with 0 violations. The final resolution IV design-type (with 5
two-way interactions) has a larger number of vignettes for the smallest sample sizes
possible than the first two types. However, it remains the same across the vignette
universes. The size is n=128 with a D-efficiency of 96 (with a slight variation in the
second decimal place) and 1 violation for each vignette universe.
Table 3 presents the smallest possible vignette-sample sizes, with their D-effi-
ciencies and violations for resolution V designs of each of the three vignette uni-
verses. The sample sizes of the first two universes are n=128 with a D-efficiency of
95 (with some variation in the first and second decimal places) and 1 violation. For
the last and largest universe, it was not possible to compute a sample of that size
with a D-efficiency over 90. The smallest sample size that is possible and fulfils this
criterion is n=256. It has a D-efficiency of 100 with 0 violations.
methods, data, analyses | 2021, pp.
Table 1 Smallest vignette-sample sizes with resolution III design
Universe (from
dimensions & levels
Number of
No. of 2-way
Resolution I II
Sample size (n) D-efficiency Violations
44 = 256 4 6 16 100 0
4421 = 512 510 16 100 0
4422 = 1024 615 16 100 0
Table 2 Smallest vignette-sample sizes with resolution IV (1/3/5 two-way interactions) designs
Universe (from
dimensions &
Number of
No. of 2-way
Resolution I V
1 two-way interaction-factor 3 two-way interaction-factors 5 two-way interaction-factors
size (n)
Violations Sample
size (n)
Violations Sample
size (n)
44 = 256 4 6 64 100 064 10 0 0128 9 6.12 1
4421 = 512 510 64 100 064 10 0 0128 9 6.13 1
4422 = 1024 615 64 100 064 10 0 0128 9 6.16 1
Table 3 Smallest vignette-sample sizes with resolution V design
Universe (from
dimensions & levels
Number of
No. of 2-way
Resolution V
Sample size (n) D-efficiency Violations
44 = 256 4 6 128 95. 21 1
4421 = 512 510 128 95.68 1
4422 = 1024 615 256 100 0
Kleinewiese: New Methodical Findings on D-Efficient Factorial Survey Designs
Discussion of the Results
It is commonly assumed that when designs are of resolution IV, all main effects are
estimable independently from one another and from all of the two-way interactions,
while two-way interactions may be aliased with each other (e.g. Kuhfeld, 2003).
My results offer new insights into the computational issues (SAS) of constructing
resolution IV designs. The computed designs concur with the definition in previous
literature in that no main effects are aliased with one another and that the orthogo-
nalized two-way interactions are not aliased with the main effects. Also, some two-
way interactions that are not orthogonalized are confounded with other two-way
interactions. However, a discrepancy between conceptualization and implementa-
tion arises: Some non-orthogonalized two-way interactions are aliased with main
effects, which may cause estimates of the main effects to be biased. This means
that looking at the aliasing structures of the aspiring resolution IV designs shows
that they do not fulfil all theoretical requirements and must, instead, be defined as
resolution III designs. This suggests that the “catch all” category (resolution IV)
between the clearly defined resolutions III and V needs to be treated with caution in
implementation. If possible, I suggest that researchers select a resolution V design.
If not, aliasing schemes must be carefully monitored (and reported as supplemen-
tary material to publications – for reasons of transparency).
Regarding the results on how resolutions impact the smallest possible vignette
samples with an adequate D-efficiency, first some general observations: Within
each resolution (or subcategory in the case of resolution IV) the smallest sample
size is the same for all vignette universes (except for the largest universe in resolu-
tion V); even though universes two and three each have one dimension more and
are twice as large as the directly preceding (smaller) universe. This is an interest-
ing finding because the same sample size is relatively a smaller fraction when the
universe is larger, for example, n=16 is (relatively) a smaller fraction of the vignette
universe for design three (1/64) than for the second largest universe (1/32) and the
smallest universe (1/16). It is also noteworthy that all sample sizes are whole mul-
tiples of each other, of the dimensions as well as their levels and that the universes
are whole multiples of the samples. This is due to the structure of the full facto-
rial and may not be so clear cut in the case of, for example, samples of vignettes
from universes that are made up of dimensions whose numbers of levels are not
multiples of one another. Violations are always equal to 0 when D-efficiency is at
100. This is because that amount of D-efficiency requires perfect orthogonality and
level balance. There is a noticeable difference in sample sizes across the resolu-
tions (and subcategories). Resolution III has a 16-vignette D-efficient sample. If
one interaction is included (resolution IV, category 1) then the minimum-sample is
four times larger (n=64) than in the resolution III designs. For resolution IV with
3 two-way interactions, category 2, the sample size remains at n=64. However, for
resolution IV, category 3, with 5 interactions, the sample size (n=128) is twice as
methods, data, analyses | 2021, pp.
large as for the first two categories in the resolution and eight times as large as in
the resolution III designs. Comparing designs of the three categories of resolution
IV fractions one can, therefore, claim that there are substantial differences between
some (but not all) differing numbers of orthogonalized interactions in regard to the
minimum sample size within the resolution. For the third universe with resolution
V there is no subsample of vignettes that is smaller than 256 and has a D-efficiency
of over 90. A difference in the sample size between the universes is present only
for this resolution. The results suggest that a larger vignette universe does not have
to increase the smallest possible sample size. Moreover, a higher resolution does
not have to increase the smallest possible sample size. Interestingly, the resolutions
do not necessarily determine the boundaries at which the minimum sample sizes
The current application provides an added value for vignette-design methodol-
ogy: As a first step, it examines structural properties of computed (SAS-macros)
designs and, for two important issues pertaining design resolutions, compares the
results shown in the computed designs with the assertions from the literature. The
conclusions provide a basis for future computational (SAS-macros) or mathemati-
cally-driven research on design resolution and sample sizes of D-efficient designs.
Although the results can lead only to tentative conclusions they should lead to fur-
ther extensive exploration of this topic.
Some central deductions drawn from the conducted research are: (1) The
examined aliasing structures indicate a discrepancy between previous definitions
and the aliasing structures of designs resulting from SAS-macros. (2) For the selec-
tion of a small sample size, the overall size of the vignette universe does not neces-
sarily play a fundamental role, rather the dimensions’ level-combinations. It should
be considered from the early stages of design onwards that smallest sample sizes
with an adequate D-efficiency can vary strongly depending on the combinations of
numbers of dimension-levels that are chosen. When all dimensions have the same
number of levels or the level-number of a part of the dimensions is a whole multiple
of the other dimensions’ level-number smaller vignette-samples can reach an ade-
quate D-efficiency than with more irregular combinations. (3) There is a trade-off
between a minimal vignette-sample size and number of orthogonalized factors (not
necessarily resolutions). (4) Resolution V designs with an implementable sample
size are often possible. Therefore, it is highly recommendable to apply resolution V
designs. Sometimes, however, this may not be implementable in research practice,
leading researchers to apply resolution IV designs. When implementing resolution
IV designs, one should always state precisely, which interactions have been orthog-
Kleinewiese: New Methodical Findings on D-Efficient Factorial Survey Designs
onalized. Furthermore, especially when using computer algorithms (e.g. SAS-mac-
ros), one must assess the aliasing structures of the design in order to determine if
the output design fulfils all of the theoretically presumed orthogonalizations.
Of course, these suggestions are more implementable for some vignette studies
than others. Studies, for example, on situational, deviant actions (e.g. Kleinewiese
& Graeff, 2020; Wikström et al., 2012) often have more flexibility when it comes
to selecting the exact numbers of dimensions’ levels. Studies on other topics, such
as the gender-pay-gap (e.g. Auspurg, Hinz & Sauer, 2017), may include dimensions
(e.g. gender) in which the number of levels is not so easily alterable.
Put in a nutshell, this article clearly shows that D-efficient designs are suitable
and expedient for a majority of factorial survey studies – even for researchers with-
out prior “expert knowledge” on experimental survey methodology. It exemplifies,
how small changes in design can have large implementation-advantages regarding
sample sizes and aliasing. At its core, it reflects upon previous common usage of
“resolution IV designs”, showing the potential drawbacks of this approach. Based
on the conceptual and applied sections, it advises making the usage of resolution V
designs a standard in social science research. It supports the necessity of improving
transparency regarding research designs. This is important because researchers,
reviewers, publishers and readers should have a clear comprehension of the design
and its implications for the analyses and the interpretation of the results.
Taking this as a point of departure, future studies should systematically exam-
ine the proposed examples (e.g. via comparisons with random samples) to provide
further support for the suggested proceedings. Another interesting design-aspect
requiring further examination is the interrelation of vignette sampling and block-
ing. While previous research shows that D-efficient blocking of vignettes to sets
leads to less biases in effect estimates than random blocking (Su & Steiner, 2020),
as a next step, it would be important to further examine the interrelations of sam-
pling and blocking (both D-efficient and random), especially regarding implemen-
tation and possible issues.
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First Published in Online First 2022-01-12
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Full-text available
Zusammenfassung Wir diskutieren ein Vignettendesign, welches auf der Ziehung einer d-effizienten Einzelstichprobe aus dem gesamten Vignettenuniversum basiert. Hierfür gehen wir zunächst auf die zugrundeliegende Annahme vernachlässigbarer Interaktionen zwischen Vignettenmerkmalen ein. Eine anschließende Simulation veranschaulicht potenzielle Konsequenzen einer Verletzung dieser Annahme für unsere, in der KZfSS 2016, 2 publizierten Vignettenstudie „Wer ist in Deutschland willkommen?“
Full-text available
Gender pay gaps likely persist in Western societies because both men and women consider somewhat lower earnings for female employees than for otherwise similar male employees to be fair. Two different theoretical approaches explain “legitimate” wage gaps: same-gender referent theory and reward expectations theory. The first approach states that women compare their lower earnings primarily with that of other underpaid women; the second approach argues that both men and women value gender as a status variable that yields lower expectations about how much each gender should be paid for otherwise equal work. This article is the first to analyze hypotheses contrasting the two theories using an experimental factorial survey design. In 2009, approximately 1,600 German residents rated more than 26,000 descriptions of fictitious employees. The labor market characteristics of each employee and the amount of information given about them were experimentally varied across all descriptions. The results primarily support reward expectations theory. Both men and women produced gender pay gaps in their fairness ratings (with the mean ratio of just female-to-male wages being .92). Respondents framed the just pay ratios by the gender inequalities they experienced in their own occupations, and some evidence of gender-specific evaluation standards emerged.
In this study, we examine volunteer firefighters’ inclination toward a “code of silence”. The likelihood of not reporting fellow group members’ deviant behavior is increased by group standards such as loyalty, but this comes at the cost of violating the law. A factorial survey was conducted with volunteer firefighters in Germany to test the influence of several factors in determining whether whistleblowing or conforming to a “code of silence” was more likely. The results show that the question of whether a firefighter will disclose a deviant action depends on the severity (e.g. the forcefulness) of the team’s or the team member’s wrongdoing. External threats turn out to have a significant opposite effect and foster the “code of silence”. Our results suggest that the factors that influence volunteer firefighters in this regard are similar to those that previous studies on the code of silence postulate as influencing professional working groups such as the police.
Der vorliegende Beitrag hat zum Ziel, die in der Kriminalsoziologie bestehenden Operationalisierungen von Handlungsmessungen mittels Selbstberichten zur Lebensprävalenz kritisch zu hinterfragen und durch den Einsatz einer situationsbezogenen Messung von Handlungsabsichten zu erweitern. Der Fokus liegt dabei auf interpersonalen physischen Gewalthandlungen, welche im Rahmen der Erklärung von Gewalt als Sanktionshandlung anhand eines handlungstheoretisch fundierten Modells betrachtet werden. Die theoretisch ausgearbeiteten Schwerpunkte der Erklärung – Situation und Sanktionsbezug – dienen als Ausgangspunkt für den empirischen Transfer und die genaue Begutachtung der Selbstberichte. Der Einsatz eines Vignetten-Designs zur Erfassung hypothetischer Sanktionsreaktionen in einer Konfliktsituation wird als angemessene und gewinnbringende Ergänzung für die Übersetzung der theoretischen Annahmen in die empirische Modellierung ausgemacht und mithilfe von uni-, bi- und multivariaten Analysen untermauert. In den vorgestellten Strukturgleichungsmodellen kann (auch mittels eines multiplen Gruppenvergleiches) der Mehrwert einer situationsbezogenen Messung von Sanktionsabsichten mit den Querschnittsdaten des Jahres 2015 des DFG-Projektes Kriminalität in der modernen Stadt gezeigt werden.
In the face of climate change and growing health hazards due to air pollution in urban centers, private car use is being increasingly criticized. At the same time, research suggests that there is an unsatisfied demand for modes of transportation other than private cars. In fact, many cities all over Europe have already established car-restricted or car-free areas. This paper uses a discrete choice experiment to learn more about people's preferences regarding a car-free city center in Berlin, Germany. We find that, given the current infrastructure, around 60% of our respondents are willing to accept a car-free city center. By improving infrastructure for cyclists, willingness to accept a car-free city center strongly increases. Similarly, improving the network of bus stops and train stations as well as rededicating released streets to recreational uses would contribute to a higher acceptance of a car-free city center. Using a random parameters logit model, we have also identified observed and unobserved sources of heterogeneity.
Factorial surveys use a population of vignettes to elicit respondents’ attitudes or beliefs about different hypothetical scenarios. However, the vignette population is frequently too large to be assessed by each respondent. Experimental designs such as randomized block confounded factorial (RBCF) designs, D-optimal designs, or random sampling designs can be used to construct small subsets of vignettes. In a simulation study, we compare the three vignette designs with respect to their biases in effect estimates and show how the biases arise from the designs’ confounding structure, nonorthogonality, and unbalancedness. We particularly focus on the designs’ sensitivity to context effects and misspecifications of the analytic model. We argue that RBCF designs and D-optimal designs are preferable to random sampling designs because they offer a stronger protection against undesirable confounding, context effects, and model misspecifications. We also discuss strategies for dealing with context and order effects since none of the basic vignette designs can satisfactorily handle them.
Why do certain people commit acts of crime? Why does crime happen in certain places? Presenting an ambitious new study designed to test a pioneering new theory of the causes of crime, Breaking Rules: The Social and Situational Dynamics of Young People's Urban Crime demonstrates that these questions can only go so far in explaining why crime happens - and, therefore, in preventing it. Based on the work of the Peterborough Adolescent and Young Adult Development Study (PADS+), Breaking Rules presents an analysis of the urban structure of Peterborough and its relation to young people's social life. Contemporary sciences state that behaviour is the outcome of an interaction between people and the environments to which they are exposed, and it is precisely that interaction and its relation to young people's crime involvement that PADS+ explores. Driven by a ground-breaking theory of crime, Situational Action Theory, which aims to explain why people break rules, it implements innovative methods of measuring social environments and people's exposure to them, involving a cohort of 700 young people growing up in the UK city of Peterborough. It focuses on the important adolescent time window, ages 12 to 17, during which young people's crime involvement is at its peak, using unique space-time budget data to explore young people's time use, movement patterns, and the spatio-temporal characteristics of their crime involvement. Presenting the first study of this kind, both in breadth and detail, with significant implications for policy and prevention, Breaking Rules should not only be of great interest to academic readers, but also to policy-makers and practitioners, interested in issues of urban environments, crime within urban environments, and the role of social environments in crime causation.
This chapter aims at showing the benefits of using vignette based factorial surveys for examining complex and sensitive topics in entrepreneurship, innovation and technology research. The example of research on entrepreneurial ethics is used to illustrate potential methodological problems. A literature review on entrepreneurial ethics shows that factorial surveys have rarely been applied despite its benefits with respect to disentangling the effects of interrelated variables and reduction of social desirability. As the rare reception might be due to lack of knowledge in how to design and carry out such studies, a guideline is provided in how to set up and conduct a factorial survey.
Forschungsvorhaben im Bereich Palliative Care oder naheliegenden Bereichen aus dem Pflege- und Gesundheitsbereich, die zum Ziel haben, empirisch fundierte Kenntnisse zur Qualität der Pflege und Betreuung von Patienten bzw. zur medizinischen Indikation zu generieren, stehen aufgrund ethischer, rechtlicher und kostenbedingter Restriktionen oft vor großen Herausforderungen. Stellen wir uns etwa vor, wir möchten untersuchen, wie Hospizmitarbeiter im Rahmen der häuslichen, mobilen Palliativbetreuung mit sozialen und psychischen Belastungssituationen umgehen.