For enthusiasts only

Why people drop out of surveys: source is from the Lausanne talk Coombe, R., C. Jarrett and A. Johnson (2011). Usability testing of market research surveys. European Survey Research Association. Lausanne. 

Matejka, J. and G. Fitzmaurice (2017). Same Stats, Different Graphs: Generating Datasets with Varied Appearance and Identical Statistics through Simulated Annealing. Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 

Moore, D. L. and J. Tarnai (2002). Evaluating Nonresponse Error in Mail Surveys” in Survey Nonrespoonse. R. M. Groves, D. A. Dillman, J. L. Eltinge and R. J. A. Little. New York, Wiley. 


Professors start here 

Dear professors 

You are a very important group of people for me. I hope you’ll consider using this book when teaching an Introduction to Survey Methods class, or if you want your students to do a survey as part of their research.  

My aim is to get readers to understand the technical complexity of surveys, and to make good choices.  

I’m sure you’ll notice that the references are a little sparse. I’ve chosen the concepts that I have found most helpful in practice. If you spot something that I’ve used without the proper credit, please let me know and I’ll make sure the issue is corrected as soon as possible. 

What I haven’t done is put in any references to ideas or concepts that I decided to exclude. Sorry. To make amends, this section is the place where you’ll find suggestions for places that your students can start their literature searches, and textbooks that are comprehensively referenced.  


Caroline Jarrett 


What survey methodologists call things 

If you decide to delve into the research done by survey methodologists, this list of terms may help you search. 

Term used in survey methodology  What I’ve called in this book 
Construct  The concept or topic that you’re asking about 
Edited response  The answers that you use 
Establishment  Business or organisation that you want to answer a survey (as opposed to asking an individual person) 
Interviewer  The person who asks the questions in a telephone or face-to-face survey 
Measurement  The questions that you ask 
Mode  The way that the survey gets to the respondent; usually web, telephone, or face-to-face interview 
Non-response  When someone who you’ve asked decides not to answer 
– Unit non-response  When they decline to answer the whole survey 
– Item non-response  When they skip a single question or group of questions within a survey 
Population / target population  The total group of people you want to find out about  
Post survey adjustments  The choices that you make in data cleaning to decide which answers you can use 
Representativeness / representation  How you check that the number is an accurate reflection of the population 
Respondents  The people who answer 
Response  The answers that you get 
Sample  The people you actually ask 
Sampling frame  The list you use to sample from 
Survey statistic  The number that you calculate from the answers 
Users  The stakeholders who want to use the survey statistic and other data gathered by the survey 

More to read about surveys 

If I’ve persuaded you to immerse yourself in surveys and survey methodology – or you happen to have to write a dissertation or thesis – here are some places to start your dive into the literature.