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Survey Design and Social Research Methods in Public Health

Course Number
5200 (Biostatistics)
Course Instructor(s)
Anita C. Benoit

Course Description

The course provides fundamental public health research skills for both quantitative and qualitative researchers including health professionals to work in both research and applied settings. It focuses on practical issues involved in the design and conduct of surveys in health and social science research.

The course format includes lectures delivered by the course instructor and guest lecturers as well as group work and student presentations. Sessions will focus on acquiring the skills and knowledges to build a survey including articulating objective(s) and research question(s) as well as writing a research protocol to investigate the topic of interest on which the survey is based.

*This course will not provide students with basic statistical analysis skills. It is highly recommended that students have completed undergraduate statistics courses.

Course Objectives

  • Describe and apply the process required to design a survey.
  • Write a protocol for survey research including social research methods used to develop the survey.
  • Critically discuss methods or analytical papers focused on survey design.


  • Survey topic proposal (20%)
  • Oral presentation on survey topic proposal (20%)
  • Critique papers (10%)
  • Research protocol and survey (building on survey topic proposal) (40%)
  • Participation (10%)

Course Content

  1. Introduction of course and overview of course content
  2. Total survey error framework
  3. Identifying and defining survey variables and domains
  4. Formulating research questions
  5. Community-based research in survey development
  6. Sampling and recruitment
  7. Measurement and bias
  8. Implementing the survey, data collection, and data analysis
  9. Social frameworks, concepts, models, and theories in survey research
  10. Writing a research  proposal
  11. Ethical considerations in survey research

General Requirements

  • It is recommended that students have undergraduate research methods and statistics.