Why take a course on (online) survey design?
Surveys are everywhere and especially web surveys are a popular method for data collection. Within the social sciences, the majority of empirical studies rely on surveys to collect data on demographics, attitudes and behaviour. Setting up a survey may seem to be a relatively simple process. Everyone can ask questions! In practice however, conducting a survey often turns out be hugely complicated, for various reasons. First of all, the number of choices for the basic design of your survey can seem overwhelming. You have to think about the choice of survey mode, obtaining a good sample, limiting nonresponse, asking good questions and analysing data, all within time and costs constraints. To make things even more complicated, each individual design choice affects other aspects of the survey design. For example, choosing to do a survey online is generally cheap and quick, but it will be hard to obtain a representative sample, and some questions are hard to ask online. Moreover, the right choice of a survey design depends on your study population and your research question.
This course introduces you to (online) survey design. We will discuss the various stages that you encounter in doing a survey, and will evaluate the trade-offs between different design choices you may face. We do this from the perspective of Total Survey Error. The overall goal is to limit the overall error of your survey, in order to enable you to give the best answer possible to your research question.
Focus of the course
The course aims to give an overview of the survey design and survey process from a Total Survey Error perspective especially focusing on the online survey lifecycle. Web surveys are increasingly used due to time and cost efficiencies, the ever-improving technological possibilities, and the increase in Internet use.
What will not be covered
In this course, we will not cover the analysis of survey data. That is, how to analyse your survey data once you have collected them. For this, you will need to take (or have taken) a general statistics course for social scientists. The course will also not cover qualitative interviews. Our course focuses on doing a survey with structured, closed–ended questions. Finally, mixed-mode surveys are discussed (internet, face-to-face, telephone and mail), but only at a basic level.
How will the course work?
The instructor will give interactive lectures introducing the topics of the day. There will be ample room for discussion, and I encourage students to contribute their own experiences and questions. There will be room for discussing specific topics you may wish to know more about. The lectures include some practical group exercises and demonstrations. In the afternoon, students are expected to finish exercises related to a problem that is linked to the materials discussed in the morning, and optionally read some more in-depth literature. On day 1, you will design your own sample and choose a survey mode. On day 2 you work on designing and evaluating your own questionnaire. On day 3 you pre-test your questionnaire with fellow course participants, and on day 4 you will use an online software tool to implement your survey. On day 5 we take a closer look at a hypothetical dataset in SPSS and focus on data screening and cleaning. I encourage students to work on their own projects during the exercises, but will provide example questionnaires and datasets for those students that do not have their own survey project (yet) to work on.