SURV699X: Survey Design and Implementation in International Contexts

Data Generating Process

This course focuses on design and implementation considerations for different phases of the survey lifecycle when conducting surveys internationally or outside of one’s home country. In the first unit, we review Total Survey Error which is a widely accepted conceptual framework for organizing and identifying potential error sources and their relative magnitude and can assist in the evaluation of design and implementation tradeoffs. We then cover fundamental project management concepts including project stakeholders and the triple constraints of cost, time, and scope, which are critical to successful completion of survey projects. The second unit includes discussion of key considerations when soliciting bids and drawing up and executing contracts to ensure a high quality and cost-effective survey data collection for the budget available as well as sampling and sample management fundamentals when conducting surveys in varying cultural and national contexts. In the third unit, we cover questionnaire and instrument design essentials to consider when designing instruments for respondents with varying cultural and linguistic backgrounds including context effects and response styles. We also discuss translation and adaptation and pretesting and cognitive interviews. The final unit focuses on interviewers, including discussion of potential error stemming from interviewers (i.e., interviewer effects) and how to approach interviewer recruitment, training, and remuneration, key data collection considerations including the mode of data collection and the presence of third parties, and in the case of interviewer-administered surveys, recent approaches and innovations in interviewer monitoring to prevent and detect unintentional and intentional deviations for study protocols.


Course objectives: 

By the end of the course, students will understand fundamental design and implementation considerations related to key stages of the survey lifecycle for conducting surveys in a different national context including:

  • Overall survey design and the Total Survey Error framework
  • Project management including stakeholders and the triple constraints of time, cost, and scope
  • Bids and contracts
  • Sampling and sample management
  • Questionnaire and instrument design
  • Translation and adaptation
  • Pretesting and cognitive interviews
  • Interviewers, data collection, and interviewer monitoring

Grading will be based on:

  • Participation in discussion during the weekly online meetings and submission of questions (10% of the grade)
  • 4 online quizzes (20% of the grade)
  • 2 homework assignments (70% of the grade; each 35%)

There are no specific prerequisites; however, some background in survey operations is helpful.

Course Dates


Summer Term (June – August)