Introduction to Survey Design and Management

The details
Sociology and Criminology
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 05 October 2023
Friday 15 December 2023
26 May 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MSC B99012 Health Research,
MPHDB79748 Health Studies,
PHD B79748 Health Studies

Module description

This module introduces students to the principles and practice of modern survey design. 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. Different sources of measurement error are then identified and explored; respondents, questions, and interviewers. We then look at how to design questions, and ways of evaluating questions to avoid eliciting measurement error. Finally, we look at the role of survey management; keeping a balance between survey errors and costs. 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.

Module aims

The aim of this course is to provide an introduction to the theory and practice of modern survey design and measurement. The focus will be on practical transferable survey skills required to conduct professional surveys.

Module 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
• Demonstrate an understanding of the key features of effective questionnaire design
• Design a questionnaire using current best practice
• Identify the different modes of survey data collection and the implications for cost and quality

Module information

Module topic list

Autumn Term
Topic 1 - week 2: Survey Quality and Survey Error
Topic 2 - week 3: Data Collection Modes
Topic 3 - week 4: Mixed Mode Surveys
Topic 4 - week 5: New Developments in Survey Methods
Topic 5 - week 6: Sources of Measurement Error – Respondents and Questionnaires
Topic 6 - week 7: Sources of Measurement Error – Interviewers
Topic 7 - week 8: Question wording
Topic 8 - week 9: Question and Questionnaire Evaluation Methods
Topic 9 - week 10: Designing Web Surveys in Qualtrix
Topic 10 - week 11: Survey Management

Learning and teaching methods

Most modules at postgraduate level in Sociology are taught as a 2hr seminar. Most classes, labs and seminars will be taught face-to-face (assuming social distancing allows this). There may also be some online activities – either timetabled as a live online session or available on Moodle in the form of pre-recorded videos. You will be expected to watch this material and engage with any suggested activities before your seminar/class each week. Please note that you should be spending up to ten hours per week undertaking your own private study (reading, preparing for classes or assignments, etc.) on each of your modules (e.g. 30 hours in total for three 20--credit modules). This module [SC970] will include a range of activities to help you and your teachers to check your understanding and progress. These are: weekly assignments such as questions from the textbook, case studies, writing survey questions, and creating a web survey. You are strongly encouraged to attend the classes/seminars as they provide an opportunity to talk with your class teacher and other students. The classes/seminars will be captured and available via Listen Again. However, if you want to gain the most you can from these seminars/classes it is very important that you attend and engage. Please note that the recording of seminars/classes is at the discretion of the teacher.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Annette Jackle, email:
Professor Annette Jackle (ISER)



External examiner

Prof Benjamin Bradford
University College London
Available via Moodle
Of 22 hours, 20 (90.9%) hours available to students:
2 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Sociology and Criminology

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