Course: Issues in Survey Research Design

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Course Description

Leads participants through the process of designing their own survey. Examines the major decisions faced by a health researcher who wants to design and implement a survey. Explores the potential sources of bias associated with alternative approaches to sample design, respondent recruitment, data collection methods (interviews in-person or by telephone, computer assisted interviews, or mail surveys) instrument design, and field administration. Participants prepare a defensible proposal for a survey that they would like to conduct. Emphasizes population surveys, but not exclusively so.

Course Objectives

Upon successfully completing this course, students are able to:

  • Identify primary sources of error in surveys, and discuss the consequences of each type of error for survey findings
  • Critically evaluate the design, construction and implications of studies based on survey research
  • Formulate strategies for surveys that minimize error
  • Critically evaluate the design, construction, and implications of surveys


Groves, R. M., et al. (2009). Survey Methodology Second Edition. Wiley-Interscience.

Course Requirements

Grading is based on:

  • Class preparation and discussion. Classes do not use a lecture format. Instead, class time is used to problem solve individual student's survey challenges related to the session topic. For each class, the syllabus provides a question that class participants should prepare to answer by completing the reading assignments. (25%)
    • 12+ prepared sessions = A
    • 9-11 = B
    • 7- 8 = C
    • 6 or fewer = D
  • Completion of written descriptions of three sections of student's own proposal for a survey project. Course participants form two-person teams to prepare these papers, if their project is hypothetical. Participants who are working on dissertation or other real projects can work alone. Note that the class preparations above will feed into each of these papers.
  1. The proposed sample design and strategies for reducing non-response with the rationales for your choices, and the strengths and weaknesses of the design (25%)
  2. The proposed data collection strategy with the rationales for your choices and the strengths and weaknesses of the design (20%)
  3. The proposed instrument: Outline of major sections, actual instrumentation for at least one set of "outcomes" or "dependent variables" and at least one set of independent variables, and short description of rationale for choices and strengths & weakness of the measures chosen (30%)

If an assignment is not handed in on time, points will be deducted from the grade in deference to class participants who meet the deadlines.