Survey Design: Introduction & Overview


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Describes the nuts and bolts of designing a survey for research in the social sciences.

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  • Survey Design: Introduction & Overview James T. Neill Centre for Applied Psychology University of Canberra, ACT, Australia The purpose of this presentation is to describe the nuts and bolts of designing a survey for research in the social sciences. This presentation is partly based on some slides by Dr. Brent Ritchi e currently at the School of Tourism at The University of Queensland (adapted with permission) – e.g., the examples of survey questions about tourism in Canberra. Dr Brent Ritchie , Image sources: Background image: Workbench melee: Further info:
  • Image sources: Questionnaires are by James Neill (License: Public domain), based on the Life Effectiveness Questionnaire
  • Understanding common methods for the design and implementation of survey-based research and the pros and cons of each method (e.g., f2f interview, mail survey, internet survey). Understanding research design and implementation issues to be considered in survey research design Understanding the importance of a rigorous, step-by-step process for the development of instrumentation
  • Image: James Neill, from Flickr, cc-by-a
  • Image soruces: Clipart ( Art Explosion )
  • Image source: DSCF3351 by joelogon License: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0
  • Image source: Questionnaire by Tuppus License: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0
  • Image source:
  • Imag sourcese:
  • Image:
  • eg. Which of the following statements best describes your reasons for taking a holiday to Canberra? (please tick one only) Ž to visit friends and relatives Ž for business Ž for educational purposes Ž for holiday/ sightseeing
  • Consider number of points (avoid over ~10) Consider direction Consider layout
  • Consider number of points (avoid over ~10) Consider direction Consider layout
  • Consider number of points (avoid over ~10) Consider direction Consider layout
  • Consider number of points (avoid over ~10) Consider direction Consider layout
  • Consider number of points (avoid over ~10) Consider direction Consider layout
  • Alreck and Settle 1995
  • Alreck and Settle 1995
  • Alreck and Settle 1995
  • Image source:
  • Image source:
  • Population - set of all individuals having some common characteristic, e.g., Australians Sampling Frame – subset of the population from which the sample is actually drawn – e.g., White pages Sample – set of people who actually contribute data to – e.g., Every 1000 th person in the white pages who answers the phone and responds Representativeness – How similar is the sample to the population with regard to the constructs of interest?
  • To learn more about Shere Hite’s research, visit her website:
  • Probability sampling - each member of population has a specific probability of being chosen. Random Sampling - everyone in population has an equal chance of being selected. Systematic Sampling - e.g., every 10 th student ID number Stratified Random Sampling - population divided into strata, then random sampling from within each stratum (e.g., an equal number of males/females are selected) Cluster Sampling - identify ‘clusters’ of individuals & sample from these (e.g., 1 person per household) Multi-Stage Cluster Sampling – (e.g., 1 person per selected household per selected suburb) Non-probability sampling - arbitrary, sample not representative of population Quota Sampling - e.g., 50% psychology students, 30% economics students, 20% law students Convenience Sampling - “take them where you find them” method e.g., at shopping mall Snowball Sampling - ask each respondent if they know someone else suitable for survey e.g., studying drug-users.
  • Sometimes called file sampling
  • Sometimes called file sampling
  • Survey Design: Introduction & Overview

    1. 1. Survey Design: Introduction & Overview Dr. James Neill Centre for Applied Psychology University of Canberra 28 September, 2009
    2. 2. Outline <ul><li>Research process
    3. 3. Questionnaire design
    4. 4. Types of questions
    5. 5. Response formats
    6. 6. Sampling </li></ul>
    7. 7. Objectives <ul><li>To introduce key aspects of questionnaire design including question style, response formats, layout, and pilot testing
    8. 8. To consider implementation issues (such as sampling)
    9. 9. To demonstrate the importance of rigour in planning, developing, and implementing research questionnaires </li></ul>
    10. 10. Resources <ul><li>Survey Design (Wikiversity)
    11. 11. Readings (Wikiversity) </li></ul>
    12. 12. Books Look for books about surveys design and survey research in libraries.
    13. 13. Research process
    14. 14. What is a survey? A “standardised” stimulus A measuring instrument
    15. 15. What is a survey? A way of converting “fuzzy stuff” into hard data for analysis
    16. 16. Purposes of survey research <ul><li>Information gathering & describing </li><ul><li>e.g., polls, attitudes, demographics </li></ul><li>Theory-building & testing </li><ul><li>Explanatory, e.g., why?
    17. 17. Predictive, e.g., what is likely to happen? </li></ul><li>Often survey research does some of both. </li></ul>
    18. 18. Research purposes Descriptive <ul><li>Collects basic descriptive data/statistics e.g., consumer profiles…(age, gender) </li></ul>Explanatory <ul><li>Examine underlying data patterns
    19. 19. Linked to a hypothesis/research objective </li></ul>
    20. 20. Research purposes Predictive <ul><li>What happens if…
    21. 21. Useful for marketing or assessing consumer behavior
    22. 22. Honours-MA-Ph.D survey research </li></ul>
    23. 23. Types of Questionnaires Self - administered Interview - administered Postal questionnaire Delivery and collection questionnaire Telephone survey Face to face structured interview Web-based
    24. 24. Designing a survey
    25. 25. Questionnaire planning/design 1. Formulate Generic Questionnaire 2. Expand the Questionnaire Based on study objectives Turn into separate sections Question styles & types 3. Finalise Questionnaire -Pre-test/pilot test -Several drafts needed Placement & Funnel Qs
    26. 26. Formulate generic questionnaire <ul><li>Turn objectives into sections of the survey
    27. 27. Ensure all questions relate to research objectives
    28. 28. For explanatory objectives or hypotheses ensure both dependent and independent variables exist </li></ul>
    29. 29. Cover letter / Ethics statement Outline details of research project <ul><li>Purpose
    30. 30. What's involved?
    31. 31. Explain any risks/costs/rewards
    32. 32. Contact details
    33. 33. Human Ethics approval #
    34. 34. How is consent given/not give?
    35. 35. How to return?
    36. 36. Can choose not to continue anytime </li></ul>
    37. 37. Instructions <ul><li>Provides consistency - helps to ensure standard conditions across different administrations
    38. 38. Explain how to do the survey in a user-friendly manner
    39. 39. Example: Life Effectiveness Questionnaire </li></ul>
    40. 40. Expanding the survey
    41. 41. Screening <ul><li>Does the participant qualify for the survey? (esp. for internet surveys)
    42. 42. Ask screening questions first, rather than later
    43. 43. Use branching if there are conditional questions </li></ul>
    44. 44. Flow and structure <ul><li>Logical order of questions (use sections)
    45. 45. Use funnel questions to move respondents through survey
    46. 46. Start off with easy to answer and engaging questions
    47. 47. More controversial questions in middle section
    48. 48. Personal questions – start or end? </li></ul>
    49. 49. Survey design principles Jenkins and Dillman (1995) 1. Use the visual elements of brightness, color, shape, and location in a consistent manner to define the desired navigational path for respondents to follow when answering the questionnaire.
    50. 50. Survey design principles Jenkins and Dillman (1995) 2. When established format conventions are changed in the midst of a questionnaire use prominent visual guides to redirect respondents.
    51. 51. Survey design principles Jenkins and Dillman (1995) 3. Place directions where they are to be used and where they can be seen. 4. Present information in a manner that does not require respondents to connect information from separate locations in order to comprehend it.
    52. 52. Types of questions
    53. 53. Types of questions Be able to justify and defend your choices ...
    54. 54. Open-ended questions <ul><li>Rich information can be gathered
    55. 55. Useful for descriptive, exploratory work
    56. 56. Difficult and subjective to analyse
    57. 57. Time consuming </li></ul>
    58. 58. Open-ended question examples <ul><li>What are the main issues you are currently facing in your life?
    59. 59. How many hours did you spend studying this week? _________ </li></ul>
    60. 60. Closed-ended questions <ul><li>Important information may be lost forever
    61. 61. Useful for hypothesis testing
    62. 62. Easy and objective to analyse
    63. 63. Time-efficient </li></ul>
    64. 64. Closed-ended question types <ul><li>Dichotomous questions
    65. 65. Multichotomous questions
    66. 66. The list (multiple response)
    67. 67. Ranking
    68. 68. Likert Scale
    69. 69. Graphical Scale
    70. 70. Semantic Differential
    71. 71. Non-verbal (Idiographic) </li></ul>
    72. 72. Dichotomous Simple Yes / No response e.g., Excluding this trip, have you visited Canberra in the previous five years? __ Yes __ No
    73. 73. Multichotomous Choice one of several answers e.g. How many hours did you spend studying this week? __ less than 5 hours __ > 5 to 10 hours __ > 10 to 20 hours __ more than 20 hours
    74. 74. Frequency scale Over the past month, how often have you argued with your intimate partner? 1. All the time 2. Fairly often 3. Occasionally 4. Never 5. Doesn’t apply to me at the moment
    75. 75. The list (Multiple response) Provides a list of answers for respondents to choose from e.g., Tick any words or phrases that describe your perception of Canberra as a travel destination: __ Exciting __ Important __ Boring __ Enjoyable __ Interesting __ Historical
    76. 76. Ranking Helps to measure the relative importance of several items Rank the importance of these reasons for taking a holiday to Canberra (from 1 (most) to 4 (least)): __ to visit friends and relatives __ for business __ for educational purposes __ for holiday/ sightseeing
    77. 77. Likert Scale Assesses differences of perceptions and allows measurement and comparison of these differences Indicate your degree of agreement with this statement: “ I am an adventurous person.” (circle the best response for you)
    78. 78. Graphical rating scale How would you rate your enjoyment of the movie you just saw? Mark with a cross (X) not enjoyable very enjoyable
    79. 79. Semantic differential What is your view of smoking? Tick to show your opinion. Bad ___:___:___:___:___:___:___ Good Strong ___:___:___:___:___:___:___ Weak Masculine ___:___:___:___:___:___:___ Feminine Unattractive ___:___:___:___:___:___:___ Attractive Passive ___:___:___:___:___:___:___ Active
    80. 80. Non-verbal (Idiographic) Scale Point to the face that shows how you feel about what happened to the toy.
    81. 81. Sensitivity & reliability <ul><li>Scale should be sensitive yet reliable.
    82. 82. Watch out for too few or too many options </li></ul>
    83. 83. General aim: Maximise sensitivity (i.e. more options) Maximise reliability (i.e. less options) How many measurement options? <ul><li>Minimum = 2
    84. 84. Average = 3 to 7
    85. 85. Maximum = 10? </li></ul>Scale of measurement guidelines
    87. 87. Watch out for too many or too few responses “ Capital punishment should be reintroduced for serious crimes” 1 = Agree 2 = Disagree 1 = Very, Very Strongly Agree 7 = Slightly Disagree 2 = Very Strongly Agree 8 = Disagree 3 = Strongly Agree 9 = Strongly Disagree 4 = Agree 10 = V. Strongly Disagree 5 = Slightly Agree 11 = V, V Strongly Disagree 6 = Neutral
    88. 88. Wording questions <ul><li>Does the question focus directly on the issue or topic to be measured? (If not, rewrite.)
    89. 89. Is the question stated as briefly as it can be? (If too long, restate it more briefly.) </li></ul>
    90. 90. Wording questions <ul><li>Is the question expressed as clearly and simply as it can be? I (f the meaning won’t be clear to every respondent, restructure the question.)
    91. 91. Use only core vocabulary - words and phrases people use in casual speech </li></ul>
    92. 92. Wording questions <ul><li>Limit the vocabulary so the least sophisticated respondent would be familiar with the words
    93. 93. Use simple sentences where possible and complex sentences only when actually required
    94. 94. Use two or more short, simple sentences rather than one compound or complex sentences </li></ul>
    95. 95. Finalise questionnaire draft <ul><li>Length </li><ul><li>Try to keep them as short as possible
    96. 96. Only ask questions that relate to objectives
    97. 97. Tricks? Font size/double sided photocopying/numbering sections </li></ul></ul>
    98. 98. Pre-testing and pilot testing <ul><li>Pre-test – try out on convenient others & revise
    99. 99. Pilot test – try out on a small sample from the target population & revise
    100. 100. Be assertive and interactive about seeking feedback – ask questions & observe
    101. 101. “The customer is always right.” </li></ul>
    102. 102. Maximising response rate <ul><li>Layout and design is key
    103. 103. Respondent’s level of interest
    104. 104. Colour of paper
    105. 105. Accompanying letter / introduction
    106. 106. Mail surveys - self-addressed stamped return envelope
    107. 107. Rewards
    108. 108. Reminders or follow up calls </li></ul>
    109. 109. Examples <ul><li>Examine the examples
    110. 110. What is wrong with the questions, if anything? </li></ul>
    111. 111. Example 1 How old are you? ___ 18-20 ___ 20-22 ___ 22-30 ___ 30 and over
    112. 112. Example 2 Are you satisfied with your marriage and your job? __________________________
    113. 113. Example 3 You didn’t think the food was very good, did you? _____ Yes _____ No
    114. 114. Example 4 Environmental issues have become increasingly important in choosing hotels. Are environmental considerations an important factor when deciding on your choice of hotel accommodation? ____ Yes ____ No
    115. 115. Example 5 What information sources did you use to locate your restaurant for today’s meal? (please tick appropriate spaces) ____ Yellow pages ____ Internet ____ Word of mouth
    116. 116. Pre-test & revise <ul><li>Pre-test items and ask for feedback
    117. 117. Revise: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>items which don’t apply to everybody
    118. 118. redundancy
    119. 119. skewed response items
    120. 120. misinterpreted items
    121. 121. non-completed items </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Reconsider ordering & layout </li></ul>
    122. 122. Survey format checklist <ul><li>Introduction/covering letter or verbal introducation </li><ul><li>e.g. Who are you? Are you bona fide? Purpose of survey? Ethical approval? How results will be used? Confidentiality? Further info? Complaints? </li></ul><li>Instructions </li><ul><li>Sets the “mind frame”, but be aware few people will read it without good prompting and being easy-to-read </li></ul><li>Group like questions together
    123. 123. Consider order effects, habituation, fatigue, switching between response formats </li></ul>
    124. 124. Survey format <ul><li>Font type / size, number of pages, margins, double vs. single-siding, colour, etc.
    125. 125. Demographics - usually beginning or end; only use relevant questions
    126. 126. Space for comments?
    127. 127. Ending – say thanks!
    128. 128. Pre-test & revise/refine </li></ul>
    129. 129. Implementing surveys
    130. 130. Comparison of Data Collection Methods Alreck and Settle (1995:32)
    131. 131. Sampling
    132. 132. Sampling terminology <ul><li>Population
    133. 133. Sampling Frame
    134. 134. Sample
    135. 135. Representativeness </li></ul>
    136. 136. Why sample? <ul><li>Why sampling rather than a census?
    137. 137. Sampling reduces: </li><ul><li>Cost, time, sample size and defines the research
    138. 138. If the sample is representative, allows inferences to be drawn concerning the total population </li></ul></ul>
    139. 139. What is sampling? “ Sampling is the process of selecting units (e.g., people, organizations) from a population of interest so that by studying the sample we may fairly generalize our results back to the population from which they were chosen.” - Trochim, 2002
    140. 140. Sampling frame <ul><li>The set of participants from which the sample is drawn
    141. 141. Examples: </li><ul><ul><li>Electoral Rolls
    142. 142. Membership Lists (organisations, graduates association)
    143. 143. Telephone Book
    144. 144. Members of Specific Groups or Clubs (Fishing, Ramblers)
    145. 145. Households or post codes </li></ul></ul></ul>
    146. 146. Representativeness of sample depends on: <ul><li>Adequacy of sampling frame
    147. 147. Selection strategy
    148. 148. Adequacy of sample size
    149. 149. Response rate – both the % & representativeness of people in sample who actually complete survey
    150. 150. Note: It is better to have a small, good sample than a large, poor sample. </li></ul>
    151. 151. Sampling example: Shere Hite ‘American Sexology’
    152. 152. Male-female relations <ul><li>Shere Hite ‘doyenne of sex polls’
    153. 153. Media furors & worldwide attention
    154. 154. 127-item questionnaire about marriage & relations between sexes
    155. 155. 4500 USA women, 14 to 85 years
    156. 156. Society and men need to change to improve lives of women </li></ul>
    157. 157. Some of Hite’s findings.... <ul><li>70% married for 5 years having affairs... </li></ul>(usually more for ‘emotional closeness’ than sex) <ul><li>76% did not feel guilty
    158. 158. 87% had a closer female friend than husband
    159. 159. 98% wanted “basic changes” to love relationships
    160. 160. only 13% married for 2+years were still in love
    161. 161. 84% were emotionally unsatisfied
    162. 162. 95% reported emotional & psychological harassment from their men </li></ul>
    163. 163. Some of the critical comments.... <ul><li>“She goes in with prejudice & comes out with a statistic.”
    164. 164. “The survey often seems merely to provide an occasion for the author’s own male-bashing diatribes.”
    165. 165. “Hite uses statistics to bolster her opinion that American women are justifiably fed up with American men.” </li></ul>
    166. 166. Response rate & Selection bias - 1 100,000 questionnaires Sent to a variety of women’s groups - feminist organisations, church groups, garden clubs, etc. 4,500 replied (4.5% return rate)
    167. 167. “ We get pretty nervous if respondents in our survey go under 70%. Respondents to surveys differ from nonrespondents in one important way: they go to the trouble of filling out what in this case was a very long, complicated, and personal questionnaire.” - Regina Herzog, University of Michigan Institute for Social Research Response rate & Selection bias - 2
    168. 168. Sampling techniques <ul><li>Probability (random) sampling </li><ul><li>Random
    169. 169. Systematic
    170. 170. Cluster </li><ul><li>Multi-Stage Cluster </li></ul></ul><li>Non-probability sampling </li><ul><li>Quota
    171. 171. Convenience
    172. 172. Snowball </li></ul></ul>
    173. 173. Random/probability sampling <ul><li>Each unit has an equal (and perhaps known) chance or probability of selection in the sample
    174. 174. Selection occurs entirely by random chance
    175. 175. Often called representative sampling </li></ul>
    176. 176. Simple random sampling <ul><li>Everyone in the target population has an equal chance of selection
    177. 177. Useful if clear study area or population is identified
    178. 178. Similar to a lottery
    179. 179. List of names are assigned #s and randomly select #s of respondents
    180. 180. Randomly select # through table of random #s or by computer </li></ul>
    181. 181. Systematic random sampling <ul><li>Selecting without first numbering
    182. 182. Respondents (units) selected from a list/file.
    183. 183. Useful when survey population is similar e.g. List of Students, List of Package Tourists
    184. 184. Select sample at regular intervals from the population e.g., every 5 th person on a list </li></ul>
    185. 185. Systematic random sampling <ul><li>Cannot do 1 in every 5
    186. 186. As then 4 people out of 5 stand no chance of being selected
    187. 187. Select a random starting point between 1 and 5 </li></ul>
    188. 188. Stratified random sampling <ul><li>Sub-divide population into strata (e.g., by gender, age, or location)
    189. 189. Then random selection from within each stratum
    190. 190. Improves representativeness
    191. 191. e.g., Telephone interviews using post-code strata </li></ul>
    192. 192. Non-random/Non-probability <ul><li>Also called purposive or judgemental sampling
    193. 193. Useful for exploratory research and case study research
    194. 194. Able to get large sample size quickly and useful when can’t find a sample frame </li></ul>
    195. 195. Non-random/Non-probability <ul><li>Make assumptions and maybe generalisations from your data, but not on statistical grounds
    196. 196. Limitations include potential bias and applicability </li></ul>
    197. 197. Convenience sampling <ul><li>Sampling is by convenience rather than randomly
    198. 198. Due to time/financial constraints
    199. 199. e.g. surveying all those at a tourist attraction over one weekend </li></ul>
    200. 200. Purposive sampling <ul><li>Respondents selected for a particular purpose e.g., because they may be “typical” respondents
    201. 201. e.g., select sample of tourists aged 40-60 as this is the typical age group of visitors to Canberra
    202. 202. e.g., Frequent flyers to contact regarding service quality in an airline setting </li></ul>
    203. 203. Snowballing <ul><li>Useful for difficult to access populations e.g., illegal immigratnts, drug users
    204. 204. Respondents recommend other respondents
    205. 205. e.g., in studying ecstasy users, gain trust of a few potential respondents and ask them to recommend the researcher to other potential respondents </li></ul>
    206. 206. Summary of sampling strategy <ul><li>Identify target population and sampling frame
    207. 207. Selection sampling method
    208. 208. Calculate required sample size
    209. 209. Maximise return rate </li></ul>
    210. 210. Task A research project's aim is – “To identify the behaviour and attitudes of UC students with regard to its computing services”. <ul><li>What is the research population?
    211. 211. How might you get hold of a sample frame?
    212. 212. What sampling technique would you use? </li></ul>