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Module 6300
Principles and Practices of Survey Research: Designing and Conducting Surveys


Dr. Thomas Krikser, t.krikser@uni-kassel.de, Senior Lecturer, Social Research Methods, Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences, University of Kassel

Course description

Survey data is considered to be one of the ‘work horses’ of empirical social science research. It is used, for example, to reveal descriptive information and to test theoretical propositions. However, designing and conducting surveys is not an easy task. Researchers have to take many decisions which might affect study results considerably: What is the appropriate sample method and sample size? What items are the best measures of the theoretical constructs at hand? Which mode shall be used to collect respondents’ answers?

The aim of this course is to give an overview and discuss potential sources of errors in survey research. Focusing on the design and implementation of surveys, the course addresses principles and problems of questionnaire designs, sampling methods, and data collection methods. Based on a theoretical foundation of different types of biases in survey research, concrete examples will be analysed.

Important, please note: During the course of the seminar, participants will have the possibility to discuss their own empirical project and the problems involved with regard to survey methodology (e.g., sampling strategy or questionnaire design). We encourage participants to take the opportunity and discuss ‘work in progress’.

Course outline (Thematic blocks for both lectures and seminar sessions)

  1. Introduction
    • Overview on the field of survey methodology
    • Basic principles of survey design and conducting surveys
    • Survey research ethics
  2. Data collection methods
    • Different types of data collection methods (face-to-face, telephone, online, etc.)
    • Errors related to data collection methods (systematic errors, random errors); for example, observation errors: interviewer, respondent, instrument, mode; data-processing errors: coding, transcription, data entry
  3. Questionnaire design
    • Question form, wording and order
    • Questionnaire design and its dependence on the mode of data collection
  4. Scales and scale development
    • Overview of relevant scales in agriculture and food sector
    • Preparation of scales and scale development
  5. Methods of survey sampling
    • Different types of sample designs (probability, non-probability)
    • Requirements for representativeness
    • Errors related to sample designs; for example, errors concerning coverage, sampling, nonresponse


Day / time Content
Monday morning Introduction / course administration (2 lectures)
Monday afternoon Data collection methods (2 lectures)
Tuesday morning Questionnaire design (2 lectures)
Tuesday afternoon 2 seminar sessions / 4 topics
Wednesday morning Scales and scale development (2 lectures)
Wednesday afternoon 2 seminar sessions / 4 topics
Thursday morning Methods of survey sampling (2 lecture)
Thursday afternoon 1 seminar session / 2 topics
Discussion of students’ projects (1 sessions)
Friday morning Discussion of students’ projects (2 sessions)
Feedback round

Course requirements

We expect students to come to class prepared. Attached you find a compilation of literature on survey methodology; please consult at least one of the recommended books on survey methodology in advance to the seminar in order to be able to actively participate. This way, presentations and discussions will be much more rewarding for all course members.

As part of the seminar, all students are expected to give a short presentation on a specific topic from the field of survey methodology in groups of two (max. 15 minutes). Topics will be announced and allocated by mail. The presentations should provide a summary, key arguments and background for discussion. Additional reading material to be used for the presentations will be provided upon request.

Course credit

You will receive course credits (3 credits) for giving a presentation about a given topic. Use academic publications (journal articles, books, book chapters) for references only.

Literature list

Books on survey methodology

General literature on social research methods and marketing research

These books do not go into detail, but offer a good introduction and an overview on different aspects of survey methodology.