Survey methodology — the analysis of sources of error in surveys, including the bias and variability that affect data quality — has long been a field of study, but typically as an addendum to such concentrations as sociology or statistics.
Six experts associated with the Institute for Social Research (ISR) are looking to heighten survey methodology’s stature as a distinct academic discipline by supporting graduate students focusing on this important area.
The six co-authored the respected textbook Survey Methodology and have donated the estimated $60,000 that they have accumulated in royalties thus far, through the book’s first two editions, to benefit student education and research. The need for specialization in this field is critical, they say, because it generates data that ultimately touches all aspects of life: personal, social, and political. And institutions — whether governmental, corporate, or academic — rely on that data.
Solid survey methodology “leads to good data, and good data leads to sound policy decisions,” says author and donor Jim Lepkowski (MPH ’76, PhD ’80), a research professor with ISR’s Survey Research Center and director of its Program in Survey Methodology.
Royalties from the textbook’s first edition support the Charles Cannell Fund at ISR for research on the interaction between interviewers and respondents. Royalties from the second edition support the ISR’s Rensis Likert Fund for research-related travel.
Cannell Award recipient Ashley Bowers, a Ph.D. candidate in the Program in Survey Methodology, studies the effect of job satisfaction on job performance and turnover among telephone survey interviewers. She’s using the money to pay the interviewers and supervisors who are participating in her research project and to pay for travel to collect data in call centers.
Bowers, who did a stint as a telephone interviewer in graduate school, says her work “is a chance not only to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of surveys, but also to enhance the lives of our interviewers, who have given so much to our field.”
In addition to Lepkowski, the Survey Methodology co-authors and ISR donors include:
- Robert M. Groves (AM ’73, AM ’73, PhD ’75), director, U.S. Census Bureau;
- Floyd J. Fowler, Jr., (AM ’62, PhD ’66), senior research fellow, Center for Survey Research, University of Massachusetts – Boston;
- Mick P. Couper (AM ’89), research professor, ISR’s Survey Research Center;
- Eleanor Singer, research professor emerita, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan;
- Roger Tourangeau, research professor, ISR’s Survey Research Center, and director and research professor, Joint Program in Survey Methodology, University of Maryland.
Learn more about ISR’s Program in Survey Methodology at http://psm.isr.umich.edu/.