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Smartphones: From Surveys to Sensors

Peter Lugtig and Vera Toepoel, Utrecht University

13.00-16.00 July 17th 2017

Course Description:
2017 marks the 10-year anniversary of the release of the Iphone, and of smartphones becoming a mainstream device. In many countries, smartphones are replacing traditional PCs and laptops as the primary device to browse the Internet, and use social media. In the last couple of years, researchers have experimented with smartphones as a method of data collection. This short course focuses on recent studies that have aimed to study how smartphones can be used. 1. As a device to administer surveys and 2. To acquire additional behavorial data using sensors. In particular we will discuss:

  • why you should want to do research using smartphones
  • how web questionnaires should be adapted to become smartphone-friendly
  • issues related to willingness and consent to participate in smartphone studies that collect behavorial data
  • how such behavorial data can potentially be used to enrich survey data, using GPS locations as an example.

It is helpful if participants to the short course bring a smartphone with them, as well as a laptop. We will not do any data-analysis during the short course, but will provide a small dataset with GPS location data collected using smartphones. We will use this dataset to illustrate and discuss how such data can be used to enrich survey data.

About the instructors:
Vera Toepoel is an assistant professor in survey methodology. Her research interest lie in everything related to survey methodology and online surveys in particular: from recruiting respondents, designing the survey instrument, correcting for bias etc. Current topics include data chunking (a.k.a. modular survey design), sensor data (and consent) and mobile survey design. Vera wrote her dissertation on Designing Web Questionnaires at Tilburg University (granted a thesis award from the General Online Research Association). She has worked with and built several online research panels. Vera received a VENI from the Dutch Scientific Organization for a 3-year research project in non-probability samples. Vera is the chairwoman of the Dutch Platform for Survey Research and the secretary (and president’s delegate) for RC33 (Methods and Logistics) from the International Sociological Association. She is a member of the Scientific Quality Assurance Board of the GESIS Online Panel. Vera is the author of the book “Doing Surveys Online” published by Sage (2016), has authored several chapters in handbooks for methodology, and has published numerous journal papers amongst others in Public Opinion Quarterly, Sociological Methods and Research, Survey Research Methods, Social Science Computer Review etc.

Peter Lugtig in an associate professor in survey methodology. His research interests lie in the interplay of three areas: 1. Doing survey-research on mobile devices 2. Methodology of panel studies and 3. The statistical estimation of data quality in surveys. Peter finished a MsC in political science at the University of Amsterdam, before moving into research methodology as a field of research. He completed his Ph.D. in 2012 at Utrecht University with a study into nonresponse and measurement errors in panel surveys. He received a Future Leaders Grant in 2012 from the UK Econonomic and Research Council for a 3-year research project into the trade-off between nonresponse and measurement errors in panel surveys. Peter is a member of the consortium board of the Gender and Generations Programme (, member of the methodological advisory board of the Understanding Society study (, and member of the coordinating team of the Dutch Platform for Survey Research (