Instructor: Joseph J. Ferrare, Ph.D.

Spring 2016, Tuesdays 9:30am - 12pm, TEB 140

Office: 145C Taylor Education Building

Office Hours: Tuesdays 3 - 5pm or by appointment



Syllabus in PDF

General Social Survey (GSS)


The design of this course is intended to introduce students to the practice of doing survey research projects. Throughout the semester we will engage with practical and theoretical problems that one is likely to encounter in the design, implementation, and analysis of survey research. The specific units include: developing research questions; addressing ethical concerns; measurement considerations related to scales, validity, and reliability; writing and organizing survey questions; tools for survey administration and analysis (e.g., Qualtrics, SPSS); sampling; data cleaning and analytic preparation; analysis; and dissemination of findings. Although basic statistics (e.g., EPE 557 or 558) is required, the course is offered at the introductory level and does not cover measurement techniques (e.g., factor analysis).


Students should expect to leave the course having accomplished the following objectives:

Develop an introductory understanding of how to design and implement a survey-based research project.
Understand the strengths and limitations of survey research from a theoretical and practical point of view.
Become familiar with advanced skills in survey research design and analysis to motivate ongoing skill development outside of the course.


The format for our class meetings will consist of lectures/presentations, small group work, and individual exercises—all of which will take place in a computer lab. The lectures/presentations are designed to provide an introduction to key concepts in survey research, and to provide examples of these concepts through practical scenarios you are likely to encounter in the process. The small group and individual exercises are meant to offer opportunities to practice all phases of survey research design and analysis. Occasionally we will not have a formal class meeting in order to provide time to work on the primary course project (discussed below).


Your work in this course will be evaluated through multiple assignments. The specific modes of evaluation and corresponding grading weights are described below. Grades will be assigned using the following scale:

A: 90% – 100%, B: 80% – 89%, C: 70 – 79%, D: 60% – 69%, E: below 60%

When evaluating your work I will consider criteria specific to each assignment. In general, though, I consider grade ranges to meet the following generic standards:

95% – 100%:  Exemplary work that exhibits mastery over the task

90% – 94%:    Excellent work that approaches mastery but falls short in one key area

85% – 89%:    High quality work that has ample room for improvement

80% – 84%:    Work that exceeds minimum expectations but contains a number of mistakes or lacks quality in key areas

75% – 79%:    Work that meets, but does not exceed, the minimum expectations   

70% – 74%:    Work that exhibits reasonable effort but falls short of the minimum expectations

60% – 69%:    Work of poor quality that shows little effort or understanding of the task

below 60%:     Work that exhibits no effort or understanding of the task


The four major assignments in this course provide opportunities to work through the different steps involved in designing a survey research project. These assignments are organized around a single project that you will develop throughout the semester. Additional non-graded assignments will be completed during class meetings.

1. Participation (5%)

My expectation is that you will come to class having closely engaged with the readings and ready to make substantive contributions to discussions and group work. Missing multiple class meetings and/or not engaging in class activities will negatively impact your participation grade.

2. Research Questions (15%): Due on February 2 @ 9:30am

In this first assignment you will develop theoretically grounded research questions for your project. The primary objective is to provide an overview of your project and articulate the research questions that will drive the construction of your survey.

3. Literature Review (25%): Due on March 1 @ 9:30am

The second assignment asks you to conduct a brief review of the academic literature related to your research questions. In essence, you will investigate and report on what is already known about the research questions driving your project. Your review must include a minimum of 10 peer-reviewed articles.

4. Survey Instrument (25%): Due on March 29 @ 9:30am

In this assignment you will design the survey instrument that addresses your research questions. You will be asked to turn in two items: 1. a Word document of the survey, and 2. an internet link to your survey in Qualtrics.

5. Research Proposal (30%): Due on April 29 @ 5pm

The final assignment puts together the first three assignments and asks that you expand upon your project by developing the data collection and analysis objectives. For example, you will develop your sampling frame and survey administration strategy, and then describe the primary analytical techniques you will use to answer your research questions. It is in this assignment that you will also be asked to identify your audience(s) and dissemination plans. It is expected that you will use this opportunity to revise your research questions, literature review, and survey instrument. Each student will be responsible for presenting their project to the group, and the group will be responsible for providing feedback immediately following the presentation.


The primary text for this course is:

Nardi, Peter M. 2014. Doing Survey Research: A Guide to Quantitative Methods (3rd edition). Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.

In the assigned readings I refer to the text above as “Nardi text.” In addition, a variety of supplementary journal articles and selected book chapters have been assigned and are available through the course outline and readings page.


If any student requires specific accommodations please do not hesitate to speak with me at any point during the semester.  This includes accommodations related to the curriculum, instruction, evaluations, or any other factors that would otherwise prohibit your full participation in this course. Any questions or concerns students have about this matter will be held confidential to the best of my ability. In order to receive specific accommodations in this course, you must provide me with a Letter of Accommodation from the Disability Resource Center (Room 2, Alumni Gym, 859-257-2754, email address: for coordination of campus disability services available to students with disabilities.


All instances of academic dishonesty will be addressed according to standard UK policies on academic integrity. Please familiarize yourself with these expectations and the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities: