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Designing Surveys

Designing Surveys
A Guide to Decisions and Procedures

Third Edition

A step-by-step guide to conducting surveys, with an emphasis on critical thinking and views on critically assessing surveys conducted by others

April 2013 | 440 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Written with the needs and goals of a novice researcher in mind, this fully updated Third Edition provides an accurate account of how modern surveys are actually designed and conducted. Much more than a “how-to” guide, this up-to-date and accessible book presents the material in a social science context and teaches readers to think through decisions about sample design, questionnaire development, and data collection, rather than simply following prescriptive advice that may not be appropriate to particular practical situations. In addition to providing examples of alternative procedures, Designing Surveys shows how classic principles and recent research guide decision-making—from setting the basic features of the survey design to implementing instrument development, testing, and data collection. The new edition covers new developments in data collection technologies, provides a more comprehensive treatment of questionnaire development and pretesting, and includes completely new chapters on sample design and selection.

1. Survey Practice
2. Survey Error
3. Planning the Survey: The Hierarchy of Decisions
4. Data Collection I: Selecting a Method
5. Sampling I: Concepts of Representation and Sample Quality
6. Sampling II: Population Definition and Frames
7. Sampling III: Sample Size and Sample Design
Methodology Appendix 1: Using Models in Sampling

8. Questionnaire Development I: Measurement Error and Question Writing
9. Questionnaire Development II: Questionnaire Structure
Methodology Appendix 2: Questionnaire Evaluation Workshop

10. Questionnaire Development III: Pretesting
Methodology Appendix 3: Cognitive Interviewing Workshop

11. Data Collection II: Controlling Error in Data Collection
Methodology Appendix 4: An Overview of Organization Surveys

12. Post-Survey Statistical Adjustments and the Methodology Report
Appendix A: UM Undergraduate Student Survey
Appendix B: Maryland Crime Survey
Appendix C: AAPOR Code of Professional Ethics
Appendix D: Internet Resources

“This book has much to recommend it. The authors succeed in pulling off some difficult balancing acts. They manage to introduce a good deal of material in a concise package. They cover key topics in practical, accessible terms, but not in simple cookbook terms. The entire survey research process is covered in a way that helps students appreciate how steps in the process are integrated. Students will understand that survey research is research, not just a series of tasks.”

Julio Borquez
University of Michigan – Dearborn

“Many of our students do not have prior methods experience. They need a text that brings them into the methodology of the field and this one is just right. The concrete examples are especially helpful. Students tell me that this text is one that they keep and use over and over. It is the kind of text that empowers them to walk through the steps of doing their research.”

Brenda D. Phillips
Oklahoma State University

“Without fail, my students are very interested in the practical aspects of survey design and implementation. They want to understand, quickly and simply, the workflow of a survey project, how many observations they need to answer their research questions, and how much it is going to cost. Not surprisingly, then, I find the applied focus of the text very helpful. The coverage of sampling and power calculations for hypothesis testing are unique strengths. The text is accessible, practical, and concise.”

Chadwick L. Menning
Ball State University

Designing Surveys is well written and is intended for novices engaged in designing a (student) survey for the first time as well as for those with some knowledge of and experience with surveys. I would add a third group of potential readers to the list: more experienced researchers who feel the need to update and refresh their knowledge.”

                                                                —Edith D. de Leeuw, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Edith D. de Leeuw
University of Amsterdam
Edith D. de Leeuw

I have no hesitation in recommending this book as a preferred course text at post-graduate level or for in-house training.  It’s far superior to anything else on the market and sits nicely between Andres (2012) and Marsden and Wright (2010).  Whereas some  books tend to be more academic (and sometimes based on limited, if any, serious experience of actually doing surveys) this book is written by people who do surveys for a living, one of them for forty years. With its combination of accumulated wisdom and narrative skill, it’s easy (and fulfilling) to read, and you can barely see the joins. It has been written by very experienced fellow professionals used to dealing with operational practicalities, spiced with (just enough, but not too much) theory and thankfully few equations (formulae are immediately off-putting for students in sociology and similar areas).

John F Hall
Journeys in Survey Research

Good book, fits my teaching needs

Dr Elise Øby
Curriculum, Østfold University College
March 14, 2020

Excellent text for the novice or experienced researcher

Miss Tracey Barnfather
Midwifery Division, Northampton University
May 6, 2015

A useful textbook for helping our students with the design of their project research surveys.

Mr Justin Luker
Department of New Media & Technologies, Bucks New University
March 10, 2015

Its specificity in designing surveys makes it a reference manual in this area. On the other side are needed other manuals that explain what to do with the colected data.

Professor Luis Ribeiro
Radiologia, Escola Superior de Saude - U Algarve
February 12, 2015

At last a truly comprehensive guide to the process of designing and doing surveys of all types

Invaluable resource

Mr Paul Kiff
Graduate School, University of East London
February 5, 2015
Key features


  • Major changes in how quality surveys are designed and conducted are covered, including methodological advances for sampling and data collection, especially Web-based and mutli-mode designs.
  • The latest methods for all aspects of the survey process are incorporated in planning the survey, developing and pretesting the questionnaire, designing the sample, pilot testing the survey, managing data collection, and reporting methodological issues.
  • Methodological advances in telephone and multi-mode survey design are covered, including Address-Based Sampling (ABS), behavior coding, cognitive interviewing, adjusting for nonresponse bias, and more.
  • Two new chapters on sample design and implementation.
  • Four Methodology Appendices:  Using Models in Sampling; Questionnaire Evaluation; Cognitive Interview Pretesting; and Organization Surveys.


  • Practical, accessible coverage equips students and independent researchers to conduct their own surveys and to critically assess surveys done by others.
  • Comprehensive coverage gives readers a sound basis for both conducting small-scale surveys and understanding the design principles necessary for developing more complex, specialized larger surveys.
  • Practical advice supported by real world examples helps readers learn how to think through design options and implementation decisions and provides a basis for designing surveys that are compatible with today’s technologies.
  • A walk-through of the entire sampling process starts with defining the target population and linking it to an appropriate sampling frame, alternative methods of determining the sample size appropriate to the research goals, and maximizing the efficiency of the sample design and sample selection.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1 Survey Practice

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