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The Essentials of Survey Methodology

Caroline Roberts, University of Lausanne

9.00-12.00 July 17th 2017

Course Description:
This short course provides an introduction to the design and implementation of quantitative social surveys, and different procedures for maximising the quality of survey data. It will consider the various steps involved in conducting a survey and the challenges that can arise along the way. In particular, it will address the major sources of ‘survey error’ that result from these challenges and their potential effects on the accuracy of the data collected. It will present ways of minimizing the impact of survey errors on data quality and of ensuring the validity of the research findings.

Participants will be introduced to key principles in survey methodology that relate to the quality and cost of survey estimates. A significant component of survey error arises from the design of questionnaires, the mode of questionnaire administration, and the way in which respondents answer questions in different modes. Much can be done to mitigate such errors at relatively low cost. For this reason, the course will focus particularly on these aspects of survey design and implementation. It will include practical exercises in writing and evaluating survey questions designed to help survey designers recognize and address threats to measurement quality before collecting data, and make analysts aware of potential problems when using survey data.

The course is suitable for people starting out in survey research, whether they are responsible for conducting surveys, analysing survey data or both.

At the end of the course, students should be able to:

  1. Summarise the key sources of error that impact on the accuracy of survey estimates and procedures typically used to minimise them;
  2. Describe ways in which different survey design choices influence the risk of measurement error;
  3. Follow best-practice guidelines on how to mitigate measurement error through effective questionnaire design, and recognise survey questions that violate these guidelines.

About the instructor:
Caroline Roberts is Assistant Professor in Survey Methodology in the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Her research interests relate to the measurement and reduction of different types of survey error, particularly in mixed mode surveys, and to ways of improving the measurement of social attitudes. She teaches courses on survey research methods, questionnaire design and the social psychology of public opinion formation for the MA in Public Opinion and Survey Methodology offered by the Universities of Lausanne, Neuchâtel, and Lucerne. She has a PhD in Social Psychology from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and has worked in the coordinating teams responsible for the design and implementation of a number of large-scale surveys, including the General Household Survey at the UK’s Office for National Statistics, the European Social Survey at City University, London, and the American National Election Studies at Stanford University.