Thomas J. Leeper > Teaching > Survey Methods Course > Home

Using Surveys for Research and Evaluation

Almost every organization - public or private - conducts surveys to understand their customers, clients, constituents, research subjects, and the public at-large. Surveys are therefore a critically important methodological tool for conducting empirical political science research and for evaluating policy, performance, and impact. Nearly every political science student will, in the course of their future career, have to conduct, analyze, or interpret survey-based research.

How do we conduct surveys well so that they provide meaningful insights? How do we write survey questions so that respondents understand them and that those responses generate useful data about relevant constructs? How do we decide whom to interview and how do we interview them effectively? How do we prepare for and manage the implementation of a large survey? How do we analyze the obtained results? This course will provide answers to these questions while training students how to implement a survey data collection and analyze the results thereof. The exam will entail the design, preparation, and pilot testing of a survey on the topic of student’s choice.

This course is being taught as a master seminar at Aarhus University during Fall term 2014. We meet Mondays from 11:00-14:00 in Building 1325 room 336.

Course Objectives and Syllabus

The objectives for the course are as follows:

  • Identify and analyze the usefulness of survey methods for conducting research and evaluating programs, policies, and outcomes
  • Identify sources of error and bias in surveys
  • Explain how sampling procedures enable estimation of population parameters and evaluate the implications of differences in sampling techniques
  • Demonstrate how to successfully manage large survey data collection efforts
  • Evaluate the quality of surveys in terms of sampling, interviewing procedures, and questionnaire content
  • Apply methodological and substantive knowledge from the course to the design and implementation of an original survey

You can find a schedule for the course, details of the exam structure, and assigned readings in the Syllabus.


In addition to journal articles on the syllabus, the course will use the following textbook:

Groves, R. M.; Fowler, F. J.; Couper, M. P.; Lepkowski, J. M.; Singer, E. & Tourangeau, R. (2009). Survey Methodology. Second edition. New York: Wiley-Interscience.

Slides, Notes, and In-class Activities

Exam, assignments, and one-on-one meetings

The exam is due via Wiseflow on January 9, 2015.

The exam for the course involves a home assignment (total 6000 words) that describes the sampling design, questionnaire, implementation plan, and pretesting of a proposed survey. The syllabus describes the requirements for this assignment in detail.

In preparation for the exam, students will complete short assignments throughout the term that fulfill portions of the final exam requirements. In other words, the final exam is largely a portfolio of work that students will progressively develop as they learn new skills during the course. The short assignments will be used in class either in small-group discussions or large-group presentations in order to receive early and frequent feedback. Students do not need to submit assignments to the instructor in advance.

Students can then, optionally, meet individually with the instructor before the exam is due to receive additional feedback.

Why GitHub?

Read more about why this course is hosted on GitHub here.