Survey Measurement and Question Design

The details
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Sunday 17 January 2021
Friday 26 March 2021
29 June 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MSC L31012 Survey Methods for Social Research,
MSC L310MO Survey Methods for Social Research,
MSC L31124 Migration Studies

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.

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

Please note that assessment information is currently showing for 2019-20 and will be updated in September.


1. The impact of mode on questionnaire design
2. Developing new questions
3. Cognitive processes in survey response
4. Developing behavioural and events questions
5. Developing questions about attitudes and beliefs
6. Writing questions about knowledge
7. In-depth pretesting a survey
8. Sensitive topics and social desirability bias
9. Visual design and layout for surveys

Learning and teaching methods

No information available.


  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Roger Tourangeau; Lance J. Rips; Kenneth A. Rasinski. (2000) The psychology of survey response, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • 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
  • 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
  • Edith Desirée de Leeuw; J. J. Hox; Don A. Dillman. (2008) International handbook of survey methodology, New York, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • 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.
  • Mick Couper. (2008) Designing effective Web surveys, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • 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
  • Dillman, Don A. (c1978) Mail and telephone surveys: the total design method, New York: Wiley.
  • Gordon B. Willis. (1999) Cognitive Interviewing: A "How To" Guide.

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
Coursework   Class participation    10% 
Coursework   Assignment #1   02/02/2021  15% 
Coursework   Assignment #2   23/02/2021  25% 
Coursework   Assignment #3   13/04/2021  50% 

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
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
Prof Benjamin Bradford
University College London
Available via Moodle
Of 679 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
679 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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