Advanced Survey Design

Course code
Course fee
Course Level

This course in ‘advanced survey design’ takes students beyond the introductory courses and will discuss the state of the art in both the design and the analysis of survey data. We discuss new ways to analyse text data and sensor data generated by modern surveys. Course participants must be proficient working with statistical software (Stata, SPSS or R). Course materials have been developed in R, but most exercises on days 1-3 is in SPSS or STATA.

This 5-day course in survey design takes students beyond the introductory courses offered in BA and MA programmes, and discusses current issues in one of the most important data collection methods: surveys. Specifically, it focuses on doing surveys in the Internet-era. It will discuss how to collect data in online surveys, using smartphones, and mixing surveys with Big data. It combines short 1-hour lectures with exercises on most of the topics discussed. Course participants must be fully proficient in working with a package for statistical software. Course materials are prepared for working with R, while most of the exercises will also work with STATA and with SPSS.

The course is interesting for social scientists or statisticians at the PhD level or beyond, working on academic research projects. Two courses are offered in the Utrecht Summer school that slightly overlap with this course: S15 - Survey Research: Design, Implementation and Data Processing and S16 -Survey Research: Statistical Analysis and Estimation. The current course is however more advanced and more focused on survey research within the academic (university) setting, as well as focused on current issues related to mobile surveys and Big Data.

We expect students to have quite extensive knowledge of survey research (for example by using survey data extensively) and have knowledge of statistics at the MSc level for social scientists (the general linear model). Note that you have to upload a brief motivation letter (up to 300 words) with your application.

Course outline:

Day 1: design and sampling

  • Total Survey Error in the context of ‘designed Big data’  
  • Probability sampling designs given different survey modes (simple random, cluster, stratified and multistage sampling)
  • exercises on sampling with R

Day 2: Questionnaire design

  • Mixed modes (incl. web)
  • Mobile surveys
  • Questionnaires in context of admin and big data

Day 3: nonresponse, correcting for nonresponse and other representation errors.

  • design weights and constructing nonresponse weights
  • process data or Paradata
  • the use of imputation to correct for nonresponse
  • the choice of whether to impute or weight for missing data
  • exercises in R

Day 4: Surveys and big data.

  • the collection, analysis, and integration of different types of organic data, and more traditional survey data
  • mobile phones in data collection
  • data collection through apps.

We provide exercises on working with geo-location, and other sensor data (pictures).

Day 5: Text data and your own project

  • the collection and analysis of text data
  • consultations about your own research project

Participants need a laptop with R ( installed and the ability to download packages.

Please note that there is always the possibility that we have to change the course pending COVID19-related developments. The exact details, including a day-to-day program, will be communicated 6 weeks prior to the start of the course.

Download the day-to-day programme (PDF)
Course director
Dr. Peter Lugtig


Dr. Bella Struminskaya, Dr. Peter Lugtig

Target audience

If you want to know the current state of the art in survey data and survey data analysis, this is a course for you. This course assumes minimally MSc level knowledge of methods and statistics. In the course R will be used extensively, and at least some knowledge of R is presumed. Course participants may also choose to use STATA or SPSS when doing exercises, but especially on days 4 and 5, not all exercises will work with STATA or SPSS, and solutions are provided in R. Extensive knowledge of at least one software package for statistical analysis is essential. The course is intended for PhD students, and others at the postgraduate level who wish to know more of survey data and its collection in the 21st century.

A maximum of 50 participants will be allowed in this course. IOPS students will get priority.

Aim of the course

The aim of this course is to provide an overview of theory and practice of modern survey design and analysis, in particular focusing on modern methods of web surveys and the analysis of new types of data (e.g. text and sensor data). This course is useful for more experienced students. After the course, participants are ready to apply the learned towards their own surveys, are able to critically assess existing surveys and survey documentation and analyse survey data themselves successfully.

For an overview of all our summer school courses offered by the Department of Methodology and Statistics please click here.

Study load

The course consists of 1-hour lectures mixed with 1-hour exercises using the computer, to apply the tools presented in the lectures. A typical course day starts at 9.30 and ends at 16.30 with breaks for coffee, lunch and tea (included in the course fee). Everyone actively participating on all five days of the course will qualify for ECs. (2 EC). Certificates of attendance will be handed out at the end of the course. There is no reading required before the start of the course. However, we will provide an overview of further reading with every formal lecture on a topic.

Please note that there are no graded activities included in this course. Therefore, we are not able to provide students with a transcript of grades. You will however obtain a certificate upon completion of this course.


Course fee:
Fee covers
Course + course materials
Extra information about the fee

You can choose between two options for participating in this course, but please note that there is always the possibility that we have to change the course pending COVID19-related developments: 

  1.  If you choose the livestream option, you will get a discount on the course fee since we will not provide lunch then. The lectures will be broadcasted in Central European Summer Time via a livestream (not recorded). Participants can ask questions via the chat which will be moderated by a second lecturer who will either directly answer your questions via the chat or ask your questions to the first lecturer during class. You will also receive online support during the group computer labs from our team. Additionally, Q&A sessions will be organised so you will benefit from our normal high level expertise while enjoying the class from the comfort of your own chair.
  2. If you choose the campus option, you will be able to attend the lectures and computer labs at our campus. Of course, we will follow all COVID19-guidelines that hold at the time of the start of your course. We will keep you updated about the newest developments (see also If you are interested in the campus option, let us know via a message in the application form under ‘Student Comment’.

The physical course costs €720, but if you participate via the livestream you will get a 100 euro discount.

Tuition fee for PhD students from the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences from Utrecht University will be funded by the Graduate School of Social and Behavioural Sciences. PhD candidates from IOPS will be covered by IOPS.

There are no scholarships available for this course.


Extra application information

Please upload a brief motivation letter (up to 300 words) with your application, in which you write a short list of your experience with surveys and statistical analyses. Please include in the motivation letter what software you are proficient in, and what courses related to survey design you have taken. IOPS students do not have to do this, you can upload a blank document.

For this course you are required to upload the following documents when applying:

Motivation Letter

More information

Irma Reyersen | E:

For frequently asked questions about how we organize our summer school courses during the pandemic, please click here

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Application deadline: 
Registration deadline
16 August 2021