Module code: SOCM065

Module Overview

Surveys are a key tool for social research that enables us to quantify the views and opinions of the public in a systematic and generalizable way. And with the growth of online methodologies, researchers are now able to access large numbers of people with comparatively little cost. But the use of online surveys presents a number of new challenges for survey methodology, including questions around appropriate sampling strategies, question wording and layout decisions in the era of mobile first surveys, and the implications of low response rates for survey quality.

This module introduces students to the general principles of survey design, before considering some of the central challenges facing survey methodology in the move to online data collection. The methodological focus of the course will be underpinned by examples of substantive empirical work from survey practitioners. Students will also gain first hand experience of online survey design using the Qualtrics software package.

Module provider


Module Leader

MEADOWS Robert (Sociology)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 128

Lecture Hours: 11

Seminar Hours: 11

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

This module will provide students with a comprehensive understanding of key issues in survey methodology, and the challenges associated with the increasing shift towards internet enabled approaches.

Indicative content includes:

  • The art and the science of questionnaire design

  • Sampling theory and non-probabilistic approaches to survey design

  • Modes of data collection; self-completion; CAPI; CATI; and the Web

  • Quality criteria in survey methods - survey error; threats to validity and the reliability of estimates

  • Survey weighting and representativeness

  • Ethical considerations in survey research

  • Web based panels and online experiments

  • ‘Mobile first’ and lessons for survey design

  • Falling response rates and survey quality

  • Online survey experiments

Practical hands on workshops will provide students with experience of:

  • Online survey design using Qualtrics

  • Data collection and descriptive analysis of headline results

  • Survey weighting

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Two part survey design report 100

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to:

Provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the key considerations when conducting online surveys, and evaluate the quality of their own survey design with reference to existing methodological work.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

A two-part coursework report consisting of the development and fielding of a short online questionnaire, accompanied by a 3,000 word report detailing the rationale behind design decisions and assessing the quality of the initial survey results.

Formative assessment and feedback

Students will participate in a number of workshops during days 1-3 of the short-course, with regular opportunities for discussion and feedback with students and module convenors. Day 4 of the course is devoted to independent study, where students will be able to make initial progress on their summative assignment. All students will then have the opportunity to discuss their initial work on day 5 of the course, with an additional feedback opportunity scheduled during the semester.

Module aims

  • Provide students with a strong foundational knowledge of the main issues in contemporary social research
    methodology, with a particular focus on the implications of a move to online survey design
  • Give students practical experience of online questionnaire development, including question testing and initial
    descriptive analysis

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Demonstrate a conceptual understanding of question wording and design issues in survey KC
002 Gain practical experience of developing an online survey using Qualtrics PT
003 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the pros and cons of a range of survey designs and the particular challenges of online methods CP
004 Recognise the importance of appropriate sampling methodologies KCP
005 Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of sources of error in survey measurements and be aware of how they can be measured, prevented and reduced KC
006 Gain a thorough understanding of the principles of 'mobile first ' for survey design K

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

Expose students to core principles/knowledge whilst also offering an opportunity for more experiential learning. Lectures will give students a strong theoretical understanding of the key issues in contemporary survey methodology, and how survey agencies are adapting to capitalise on the growth of online approaches. Workshops will give students hands on experience with software for conducting online surveys, designing and analysing their own survey.

The learning and teaching methods include:

  • Lectures

  • Hands-on workshops

  • Small group work

  • Independent study

  • Group discussion and feedback

This course is taught intensively over one week. A mix of lectures and hands on workshops will feature across days 1-3, followed by a day for independent study and initial assignment preparation. Students will return to the classroom on day 5 for a chance to receive formative feedback on their assignment plans from the lecturer and peers.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: SOCM065

Other information


Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Social Research Methods MSc 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2020/1 academic year.