Division supports new Survey Research Practicum for Undergraduates

Announcement Type: 

Supported by the College Innovation Fund, the Division of the Social Sciences and the Survey Lab are offering a new course for undergraduates in Fall 2018 Quarter. The Survey Research Practicum (SOCI 20284/1) will give students real-world experience in planning and administering a mixed-mode survey research project using an address-based sample. The course will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:30-1:50 PM and will be taught by Kevin Ulrich, Director of the Survey Lab.


Ulrich says, “Students concentrating in sociology, psychology, social psychology, economics, or any other social science discipline would benefit from the course. Understanding how survey data is collected, with attention towards the potential surveys of error which may be introduced along the process, is a critical step to being able to distinguish between high and low quality datasets.”


This hands-on course will focus on the planning and administration of a ready-to-field survey, and on understanding how trade-off decisions in the planning phase may affect survey errors. Students will take part in every phase of the operational design and project execution, including data collection.


A recent survey project that illustrates a topic investigated through a complex research survey includes the N2 project, "PrEP Uptake and Adherence Among Young Black MSM: Neighborhood and Network Determinants," which seeks to investigate the relationship between neighborhood-level factors and the uptake and adherence to a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) regimen. PrEP is a drug used to prevent the transmission of HIV. Participants of the study are young black men who have sex with other men. Through in-person surveys, Survey Lab interviewers collect data on sexual histories and the use of PrEP and the barriers they face to be adherent.


A second example of research survey work include an initiative by the Helios Foundation to promote greater access to higher education for Arizona high school students. NORC is conducting a series of surveys in select Arizona high schools to learn how networks of family, friends, and professionals such as teachers, coaches, and ministers figure into the information and support high schoolers get about college.  The Survey Lab is providing questionnaire formatting, programming and data collection support for the longitudinal study.


In the process of planning and fielding the survey, students will learn to prepare a scope of work and write a budget, prepare and submit an IRB application, properly staff a field operation, learn to conduct a standardized survey interview, track fieldwork and disposition outcomes, calculate response rates, process and clean data, and prepare a methodological report. Students will also assist in the development and implementation of methodological experiments in order to understand how changes to the survey design affect data outcomes.


“As a practicum, the course will involve participating in the data collection process outside of class and a considerable amount of time outside the classroom will be required. During the field period, students will be required to spend 6-8 hours per week outside of the classroom working on tasks,” Ulrich says. Tasks will include preparing materials to be mailed to respondents, including advance letters, survey packets and any other materials to be distributed. After the surveys have been sent, students will go into the field and follow up with potential survey participants who have not yet responded. Student may also participate in evening call shops to call potential survey participants who have not yet responded. Other tasks will include developing budgets, and creating a description of a research project.


Learn more here.