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Survey Design


Units: 6


When was the last time you were asked to respond to a survey? Customer satisfaction surveys, alumni surveys, consumer product surveys, political surveys, health surveys, and public opinion polls represent just a few of the types of surveys most of us routinely encounter. Moreover, national news organizations and the popular press deliver the results from their latest surveys on a daily basis. To what extent can you trust the results? Are the survey results flawed by inappropriate survey design and methods? This course introduces you to a set of principles and methods in survey design that are the based on the scholarship that informs best practices in the field.

We will use the concept of total survey error to frame an understanding of the key issues in survey research, including sampling frames, survey statistics, modes of data collection, non-response, question structure, wording, context and other important features of survey administration and data collection. By developing your own survey, you will examine the major decisions faced by a professional who wants to design and administer high-quality surveys. 

The course will focus heavily on class discussion of readings, in-class group work and a survey design project. For this reason, attendance and active participation are important for successful learning in this course.

Learning Outcomes

General Goals: 

I want to turn you into a Survey Snob. I know this sounds odd, but I want you to become a sophisticated and critical consumer and producer of surveys. To accomplish this, you will need to develop an understanding of the fundamental principles of survey research and design. After this course, I hope that you look at surveys through a new set of eyes. You will be able to distinguish poorly-constructed surveys from well-constructed surveys. You will be able to design and administer surveys that support the social, research, and data collection needs of the organizations and institutions to which you belong.

Learning Objectives:

As a result of meaningful and active participation in this course you will be able to:

  • Identify and develop specific survey objectives and formulate survey research hypotheses
  • Identify and use appropriate survey sampling techniques
  • Identify and explain sources of survey error.
  • Design, evaluate, test, and iteratively revise survey questions to reduce survey error


Prerequisites Description