Module Details

SC970-7-AU-CO: Introduction To Survey Design And Management

Note: This module is inactive. Visit the Module Directory to view modules and variants offered during the current academic year.

Year: 2017/18
Department: Sociology
Essex credit: 20
ECTS credit: 10
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: Yes
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: No
Outside Option: No

Supervisor: Professor Annette Jackle
Teaching Staff: Dr Annette Jackle (ISER), Dr Noah Uhrig (ISER) and Dr Jon Burton (ISER)
Contact details: Michele Hall, Graduate Administrator, Telephone 01206 873051, Email:

Module is taught during the following terms
Autumn Spring Summer

Module Description

This module introduces students to the principles and practice of modern survey design. In the Autumn term the module exposes students to the considerable literature on survey methodology that informs best practice in contemporary survey research. Survey methodology has, over the past two decades or so, developed into a more or less unified field of research and practice. It brings together insights from, inter alia, cognitive and social psychology and statistics to explain how human behaviour and survey design decisions interact to produce data of varying quality. Key to this perspective is the concept of 'total survey error'. This framework is used throughout the module to discuss the multiple sources of error that modern survey design methods aim to mitigate. The initial focus of this module is on introducing social science graduates to the fundamentals of survey design and to the concept of survey error. A variety of different types of design are introduced with their relative costs, benefits and indications for particular types of study purpose. The focus then moves to introducing students to a variety of modes of data collection and the significance of survey mode on data quality. Throughout the module, concepts and methods will be illustrated with real examples and case studies - many of them drawn from the survey work that takes place at ISER.

In the Spring term the module will provide an opportunity to gain practical experience of some of the key fieldwork activities of selected UK research organisations (past hosts have included NatCen Social Research, GfK NOP, TNS-BMRB) or a short work placement at ISER, working on a major UK survey, Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study. The purpose is to expose students to, and enable them to work on, various activities that take place 'behind the scenes' in the day-to-day running of large-scale surveys. In this way, the module provides students with important applied knowledge and experience to complement the lecture-based modules, preparing them for employment as survey professionals or for graduate research work. During the Autumn/Spring term there will be the opportunity for the student to attend an interviewer briefing session for Understanding Society to learn about how the fieldwork agencies liaise with their field-force and how the design of the study, along with the careful attention to the questionnaire content, is relayed to the interviewers as well as hearing about interviewers' experiences working on the survey. The student will also accompany an interviewer working on Understanding Society and experience the practical issues and challenges that interviewers must deal with on a high quality social research study.

In addition, students will be invited to join in with the monthly "Journal Club" meetings which are held at ISER among survey methods PhD students and other research staff and discuss key issues in the survey methodology literature.


To provide an introduction to the theory and practice of modern survey design and management and to provide direct exposure to aspects of survey fieldwork and practical experience working on a real survey research study.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module students should be able to:

  • Distinguish between different types of survey designs and their uses

  • Understand and explain the total survey error framework

  • Identify the different modes of survey data collection and the implications for cost and quality

  • Understand how survey interviewing is carried out in the field

  • Carry out an applied piece of work in a survey research environment

  • Write up and verbally present rationale, methods and results of a piece applied survey research


  • Survey Quality and Survey Error: The Total Survey Error perspective (1 week)

  • What is a survey? Steps in the process (population of inference, from concepts to questions)

  • Survey quality and survey error (total survey error)

  • Survey mode and data collection methods (2 weeks)

  • Telephone, face to face, self-completion, web, mobile

  • Computer Assisted Interviewing (software, lab-based exercises)

  • Mixed and multi-mode surveys

  • Mode effects on survey error

  • Current practices

  • Questionnaire design (2 weeks)

  • Psychology of survey response (CASM). Sociolinguistic approaches.

  • Desired properties of survey responses - validity and reliability

  • Sources of measurement error - the interviewer (interviewer effects), respondent (recall, satisficing, social desirability), questionnaire (context and framing effects)

  • Managing Computer-Assisted interviewing

  • Survey Management (1 week)

  • Survey management practice and quality control

  • Legal and ethical obligations

  • Survey practicum (4 weeks)

  • Placement at survey organisation/ISER

  • Attendance at interviewer briefing

  • Accompaniment of an interviewer

Learning and Teaching Methods

12 hours in Autumn Term: one 2-hour seminar per week for 6 weeks.

Plus Workshop (2 hours), field trips (1.5 days) and supervised work placement (10 days) during the Spring term


100 per cent Coursework Mark


This course is assessed using a combination of a written report, based around recommendations for a survey design for a client, a written report describing the work-placement and a presentation to staff and students about the placement. A written report of 2,000 words (50%), set at the end of the week 6 in the Autumn term A short piece weekly coursework to be submitted the day before each class (10%) A written placement report of no more than 1,500 words (20%) A presentation to staff and other students at the beginning of the Summer term (20%)


  • Robert M. Groves, Floyd J. Fowler, Jr., Mick P. Couper, James M. Lepkowski, Eleanor Singer, Roger Tourangeau (2004), Survey Methodology, Wiley
  • Week by week additional readings will also be provided at the beginning of the term.

Further information