Survey Measurement and Question Design

The details
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Monday 13 January 2020
Friday 20 March 2020
28 March 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MSC L31012 Survey Methods for Social Research,
MSC L310MO Survey Methods for Social Research

Module description

This course focuses on theoretical and practical tools for developing and writing survey questions and constructing questionnaires. The major emphasis is on how to construct individual survey questions and then put them together into a questionnaire. Topics include sources of survey error, response theories, visual design, open-ended questions, nominal and ordinal closed ended questions, mode issues, pretesting, and implementation. The course will consist of lectures, readings, discussion, and assignments. Throughout the course, students will apply what they are learning to the development of a questionnaire and implementation materials and will have opportunities to receive feedback on their questionnaire.

  • The impact of mode on questionnaire design

  • Developing new questions

  • Cognitive processes in survey response

  • Developing behavioural and events questions

  • Developing questions about attitudes and beliefs

  • Writing questions about knowledge

  • In-depth pretesting a survey

  • Sensitive topics and social desirability bias

  • Visual design and layout for surveys

Module aims

The primary objective of this course is for each student to obtain and be able to demonstrate a full working knowledge of the science (concepts, theory, and empirical research) of questionnaire design.

Module learning outcomes

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

Demonstrate an understanding of the theoretical basis of survey measurement and measurement error;
Identify appropriate survey design strategies for a range of measurement challenges;
Understand the stages of completing a useful and appropriate survey.
Design a questionnaire

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

20 contact hours (2 per week for 10 weeks). Primarily lecture-based, with some practical sessions.


  • Norbert Schwarz. (2009) Cognition and communication: judgmental biases, research methods, and the logic of conversation, New York: Psychology Press. vol. John M. MacEachran memorial lecture series
  • Dillman, Don A. (c1978) Mail and telephone surveys: the total design method, New York: Wiley.
  • Norman M. Bradburn; Seymour Sudman; Brian Wansink. (2004) Asking questions: the definitive guide to questionnaire design: for market research, political polls, and social and health questionnaires, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Mick Couper. (2008) Designing effective Web surveys, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Gordon B. Willis. (1999) Cognitive Interviewing: A "How To" Guide.
  • Nora Cate Schaeffer and Elizabeth Thomson. (1992) 'The Discovery of Grounded Uncertainty: Developing Standardized Questions about Strength of Fertility Motivation', in Sociological Methodology. vol. 22, pp.37-82
  • Edith Desirée de Leeuw; J. J. Hox; Don A. Dillman. (2008) International handbook of survey methodology, New York, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Redline, Cleo; Dillman, Don A.; Dajani, Aref N.; Scaggs, Mary Ann. (2003) Improving navigational performance in U.S. Census by altering the visual languages of branching instructions.. vol. 19 (4) , pp.403-419
  • Cleo Redline; Don A. Dillman; Aref N. Dajani; Mary Ann Scaggs. (2003) 'Improving navigational performance in U.S. Census by altering the visual languages of branching instructions', in Journal of Official Statistics: Statistics Swedeb. vol. 19 (4) , pp.403-419
  • Gordon B. Willis. (1999) Cognitive Interviewing: A “How To” Guide.
  • Jean M. Converse; Stanley Presser. (1986) Survey questions: handcrafting the standardized questionnaire, Beverly Hills: Sage Publications. vol. Sage university papers : quantitative applications in the social sciences
  • Jon A. Krosnick; Leandre R. Fabrigar. (1997) 'Designing rating scales for effective measurement in surveys', in Survey measurement and process quality, New York: Wiley. vol. Wiley series in probability and statistics. Applied probability and statistics, pp.141-164
  • Don A. Dillman; Arina Gertseva; Taj Mahon-Haft. (2005) 'Achieving usability in establishment surveys through the application of visual design principles', in Journal of Official Statistics: Statistics Sweden. vol. 21 (5) , pp.183-214
  • Fowler, Floyd J. (c1995) Improving survey questions: design and evaluation, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. vol. Applied social research methods series
  • Norbert Schwarz, Fritz Strack and Hans-Peter Mai. (1991) 'Assimilation and Contrast Effects in Part-Whole Question Sequences: A Conversational Logic Analysis', in The Public Opinion Quarterly. vol. 55 (1) , pp.3-23
  • Norbert Schwarz, Hans-J. Hippler, Brigitte Deutsch and Fritz Strack. (1985) 'Response Scales: Effects of Category Range on Reported Behavior and Comparative Judgments', in The Public Opinion Quarterly. vol. 49 (3) , pp.388-395
  • Norbert Schwarz. (c1996) 'Order effects within a question', in Thinking about answers: the application of cognitive processes to survey methodology, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Norbert Schwarz, Bärbel Knäuper, Hans-J. Hippler, Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann and Leslie Clark. (1991) 'Rating Scales: Numeric Values May Change the Meaning of Scale Labels', in The Public Opinion Quarterly. vol. 55 (4) , pp.570-582
  • Scot Burton and Edward Blair. (1991) 'Task Conditions, Response Formulation Processes, and Response Accuracy for Behavioral Frequency Questions in Surveys', in The Public Opinion Quarterly. vol. 55 (1) , pp.50-79
  • Lilli Japec. (2008) 'Interviewer error and interviewer burden.', in Advances in telephone survey methodology, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. vol. Wiley series in survey methodology, pp.187-211
  • Roger Tourangeau; Lance J. Rips; Kenneth A. Rasinski. (2000) The psychology of survey response, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Dillman, Don A.; Gertsava, Arina; Mahon-Haft, Taj. (2005) Achieving usability in establishment surveys through the application of visual design principles.. vol. 21 (2) , pp.183-214

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 Weighting
Coursework   Class participation    10% 
Coursework   Assignment #1 (Analysis Plan)     15% 
Coursework   Assignment #2 (Developing New Questions)     25% 
Coursework   Assignment #3, (Formatted Questionnaire)    50% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Tarek Al Baghal, email:
Tarek Albaghal (ISER)
Michele Hall, Graduate Administrator, Telephone 01206 873051, Email:



External examiner

Prof Paul Stretesky
The University of Northumbria at Newcastle
Professor of Criminology
Available via Moodle
Of 18 hours, 18 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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