Like its precursors, WJS3 is based on a common conceptual and methodological framework developed and adopted by researchers from more than 110 countries collaborating in the project. All participating country teams are required to adhere to this framework, which includes a shared questionnaire along with instructions for translating questions, defining populations, constructing samples, selecting respondents, conducting interviews as well as proper recording and handling of survey data. Field research is scheduled to take place between 2020 and 2022 for all countries. In adherence to these general guidelines, WJS3 will proceed in four steps, each of which forms a research module built around specific methodological aims. These include a Structural Module, a Survey Module, an Analysis Module, and a Dissemination Module.
(1) Structural Module: structure of media system, population and questionnaire
In this module, research teams in the participating countries gather information about (a) respective national media systems, (b) structural parameters of the population of journalists, and (c) the opportunity structures within which journalism operates. This allows drawing an informed picture of the national media landscapes as well as the number and distribution of journalists in the WJS countries.
The standard questionnaire modules will be provided by the WJS Center; all research teams are obliged to apply the questionnaire to their countries. No deviations from the standard questionnaire, which is constructed in English, are permitted. National teams outside the Anglo-Saxon world are required to obtain a native-language version of the standard questionnaire using a strict translation-back translation procedure or a multilingual-experts approach.
(2) Survey Module: sampling, survey, and data handling
The minimal required sample size will be calculated, according to statistical conventions, based on a confidence level of 95% and a level of sampling precision (“sampling error”) of not more than 5% (teams are encouraged to stay within a 3% maximum sampling error). All national samples should provide reasonable representations of the populations of journalists in the investigated countries.
Sampling will thus proceed in two steps. First, teams construct a national target sample based on the information obtained through the Structural Module. The target sample will specify quotas for each combination of the following criteria: media channel (newspapers, magazines, agencies etc.), content orientation (quality vs. tabloid, if applicable), distribution (local, regional, national, or transnational), and primary ownership (private, public, state-run, or community). For each target quota, teams will randomly (or systematically) select editorial organizations and then choose journalists randomly (or systematically) from within these organizations until they reach the target quota.
(3) Analysis Module: description, comparison, explanation and tracing adaptation
In the Analysis Module, research teams will proceed as follows:
- Descriptive analysis: All national teams establish key findings on journalists’ perceptions of risk and uncertainty in their respective countries. Each team is expected to prepare a country report summarizing key findings for publication on the WJS website (a template will be provided by the WJS Center).
- Comparative analysis: In this step, researchers collaborating in WJS3 will form multinational teams, each focusing on a specific research question. Teams are charged with the task of identifying comparative patterns (of similarity and difference) in the cross-national dataset.
- Explanatory analysis: In the following step, multinational teams will continue their work and focus on the identification of key factors that drive journalists’ perceptions of risk and uncertainty across levels of analysis (individual, organizational, and societal). For this purpose, a range of contextual data (see Structural Module) will be included in the analysis.
- Longitudinal analysis: Finally, the established multinational teams will track developments in journalists’ perceptions of risk and uncertainty over time. These developments will also point to ways in which journalism is coping with and adjusting to risk and uncertainty. Such a comparison is possible as WJS3 will replicate several measures used in earlier research (by WJS and beyond).
For this purpose, all research teams delivering a dataset deemed reliable by the WJS Center will get access to the consolidated dataset, which contains data from all participating countries.
(4) Dissemination Module: coordination, dissemination, and outreach
In order to reach out beyond the scientific community, the WJS network will organize national and international workshops to share key insights from the study with leading journalists, journalism educators, representatives of journalism unions, and media policy makers. Furthermore, members of the WJS network will contribute their expertise to national and international organizations concerned with the future of journalism (e.g., with the International Federation of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, and UNESCO). Overall, WJS aspires to become a global research hub for the comparative assessments of journalists’ perceptions of risk and uncertainty in a changing mediascape.