SURV631: Questionnaire Design

Data Generating Process

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Instructor: Gina Walejko

The objective of this course is to introduce the scientific literature on the design, testing, and evaluation of survey questionnaires. The course will explore the theoretical and experimental literature related to question and questionnaire design as well as focusing on practical issues in the design, critique, and interpretation of survey questions that are often not taught in formal courses.

Discussion will focus on the measurement of both factual and non-factual material. Topics include general principles of writing questions to ensure respondent understanding; techniques for measuring the occurrence of past behaviors and events; the effects of question wording, response formats, and question sequence on responses; an introduction to the psychometric perspectives in multi-item scale design; combining individual questions into a meaningful questionnaire; guidelines for self-completion surveys versus interview surveys; strategies for obtaining sensitive or personal information; and an introduction to techniques for testing survey questions.

The course will also provide hands on applications of the methods discussed in class. Students will be expected to draw on the material covered in the video lectures and readings in conducting a series of exercises in the development of a questionnaire.

Course objectives: 

By the end of the course, students will…

  • be able to develop their own questionnaire based on a research question.
  • be able to apply the knowledge about the cognitive response process to write good survey questions.
  • be able to select and apply tools to pretest their questionnaire.
  • know different techniques to ask respondents about sensitive topics.
  • be able to develop questions that ask about facts (behaviors and events) and non-fact (attitudes and opinions).
  • be able to put individual survey questions in an appropriate sequence considering the idiosyncrasies of different modes of data collection.

Grading will be based on

  • 5 online quizzes (25% total grade)
  • Attendance and participation in discussion during the weekly online meetings (7% total grade)
  • Posting questions to the forum (deadline: Wednesday 8:00 AM EST/2:00 PM CET) demonstrating understanding of the required readings and video lectures (8% total grade)
  • Project consisting of 3 homework assignments (60% total grade)

No prerequisites


Bradburn, N., Sudman, S., & Wansink, B. (2004). Asking Questions: The Definitive Guide to Questionnaire Design – For Market Research, Political Polls, and Social and Health Questionnaires, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Converse, J., & Presser, S. (1986). Survey Questions: Handcrafting the Standardized Questionnaire, Newbury Park: Sage Publications.

Weekly online meetings & assignments:

  • Week 1: Instrument Development (Quiz 1)
  • Week 2: Writing Survey Questions (Assignment 1)
  • Week 3: Asking about Facts and Quasi-Facts (Quiz 2)
  • Week 4: Questions about Subjective Things (Attitudes) (Quiz 3)
  • Week 5: Response Categories and Response Scales (Quiz 4)
  • Week 6: Sensitive Questions (Assignment 2)
  • Week 7: Questionnaire from Start to Finish; Layout and Mode Dependencies (Quiz 5)
  • Week 8: Tools for Developing and Testing Questionnaires (Assignment 3)

Course Dates


Spring Semester (January – May)


Spring Semester (January – May)