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Instructor-led course

Provided by: Social Sciences Research Methods Programme

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Survey Research and Design


The module aims to provide students with an introduction to and overview of survey methods and its uses and limitations. It will introduce students both to some of the main theoretical issues involved in survey research (such as survey sampling, non-response and question wording) and to practicalities of the design and analysis of surveys. The module consists of three three-hour sessions, split between lectures and practical exercises.

At the start of the module, the theoretical aspects of designing surveys will feature more, and topics covered include: the background to and history of survey research (with examples mostly drawn from political polling); an overview of the issues involved in analysing data from surveys conducted by others and some practical advice on how to evaluate such data; issues of sampling, non-response and different ways of doing surveys; issues related to questionnaire design (question wording, answer options, etc.) and ethical considerations. These lectures are relevant for all students taking the module, irrespective of whether they will conduct surveys themselves or are 'passive' users of survey results.

As the module progresses the practical aspects of designing surveys will feature more, particularly issues directly related to questionnaires (and less on issues of sampling), such as the wording of questions, the order of questions, and the use of different answer options. Most of the exercises will be provided by the instructors, but there will also be opportunities for students to bring in examples of surveys they would like to develop for their own research (and participants in the sessions may be asked to answer each other's surveys as a pilot test). We encourage all students registered for the module to attend the more practical sessions, but it will be of most direct relevance to those who are using, or plan to use, surveys in their research.

Target audience
  • University Students from Tier 1 Departments
  • Further details regarding eligibility criteria are available here

Students must have arranged a Qualtrics account for this module; user accounts for the pilot Qualtrics service can be requested from UIS.

Users should email requesting a Qualtrics account. Please supply your name, CRSID, and a University contact email address when requesting an account. It may take up to two weeks for accounts to be created. Usernames will usually be issued in the format <crsid>, and a password reset email will be sent directly to the contact email address from the Qualtrics system.

If you have already used your email address to register an account with Qualtrics (for example, for a trial) you can contact Qualtrics via email ( and ask for your account to be moved into the 'University of Cambridge Brand'

Topics covered
  • The evolution of survey research
  • Using survey research data
  • Survey design: survey process, sampling, non-response, general principle of questionnaire design; formulation of questions, response formats

Students who attend this course will be able to:

  • design their own and evaluate research that uses surveys, in particular to understand issues concerning sample selection, response bias and data analysis
  • appreciate and use basic principles of questionnaire design
  • trace appropriate sources of data and appropriate exemplars of good survey practice

To provide students with an introduction to and overview of survey methods and its uses and limitations


Presentation only

Possible background readings
  • Sapsford, R. (2007) Survey Research (2nd ed). London: Sage
  • Sue, V. and Ritter, L.A (2012) Conducting Online Surveys (2nd ed). London: Sage
  • Buckingham, A. and Saunders, P. (2004) The Survey Methods Workbook. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • de Vaus, D.A. (2014) Surveys in Social Research (6th ed [or an earlier ed]). London: Routledge.
  • Fowler, F. (2009) Survey Research Methods (4th ed). London: Sage.
  • Groves, R. et al (2009) Survey Methodology (2nd ed). London: Wiley.
  • Lee, R. (2000) Doing Research on Sensitive Topics. London: Sage.
  • Lyberg, L. et al. (1997) Survey Measurement and Process Quality. London: Wiley
  • Online quizzes may be provided for you to check your own progress
  • There is an online open-book test at the end of the module; the test is compulsory for some students – please check with your Department.
Elements of Social Science Research

Events available