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American Association for Public Opinion Research

Webinar Details

The Role of Question Characteristics in Designing and Evaluating Survey Questions

Jennifer Dykema and Nora Cate Schaeffer
Thursday, January 21, 2016
12:00 - 1:30 PM CST/ 1:00 - 2:30 PM EST/ 10:00 - 11:30 AM PST

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About This Course:

Over time researchers have developed recommendations for writing questions for standardized measurement that are based on understanding the effects question characteristics like length and difficulty have on survey data. This course reviews the key and latest insights from this area of research to present a framework for how to think about question characteristics and the impact they have on data quality; uses case studies to illustrate that impact; and offers “best practice” advice to help practitioners design questions that enhance data quality. We compare important approaches for identifying and evaluating question characteristics, such as the Question Appraisal System (Willis 2005) and the Question Understand Aid (QUAID) (Grasser et al. 2006). We discuss challenges in this research including how question characteristics can interact in affecting interviewer and respondent processing, and conclude with an agenda for future study.

Learning Objectives:

  • Present a framework for thinking about question characteristics and their effect on the quality of respondents’ answers.
  • Synthesize, describe, and analyze key approaches to identifying question characteristics.
  • Summarize findings of their impact on data quality.
  • Illustrate the impact of question characteristics in a case study.
  • Offer a summary, limitations, and future directions for research on question characteristics.

About the Instructor:

Jennifer Dykema is Senior Survey Methodologist and Scientist at the University of Wisconsin Survey Center where she conducts research on questionnaire design, interviewer-respondent interaction, and methods to increase response rates. She advises a broad range of investigators across all disciplines and on all types of study design and data collection. Her research has appeared in Public Opinion Quarterly, Journal of Official Statistics, Social Science Research, Evaluation and the Health Professions, American Sociological Review, and edited volumes such as the Handbook of Survey Research. She serves as an Associate Editor of BMC Medical Research Methodology and on the editorial boards for Public Opinion Quarterly and the Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology. She has taught research methods at University of Wisconsin–Madison and the Summer Institute at the University of Michigan. She earned her B.A. in psychology and sociology from the University of Michigan, and her M.S. and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Nora Cate Schaeffer is Sewell Bascom Professor of Sociology and the Faculty Director of the University of Wisconsin Survey Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her current research focuses on interaction both when the sample member is recruited and during the interview and on instrument design issues. She has held elective offices in the American Association for Public Opinion Research and the Survey Research Methods Section of the American Statistical Association. She recently served on the Public Opinion Quarterly Advisory Board of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, the General Social Survey Board of Overseers, and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics Board of Overseers. In 2010 she was selected as a Fellow of the American Statistical Association. Before receiving her doctorate from the University of Chicago (1984), she worked at National Opinion Research Center.