Lecture Topics and Class Activities

    Lecture TOPICS

  1. Show how research findings have allowed us to be better aware of the limitations of the survey method and how to better conduct surveys (see Lecture 8.1). If you want to discuss specifics of how--or whether-- to label scale points, you may find this article useful.

  2. Stress the importance of planning for conducting proper survey research (see Lecture 8.2). As part of your presentation, you might want to discuss how the Gallup organization conducts polls. (pdf file)

  3. Go through this list of 20 questions journalists should ask about poll results.

  4. Discuss the problems with self-report data. You can give students a brief and informative article on the pitfalls of self-report by copying pages 1 and 29 of the January, 1997 APA Monitor.

  5. Discuss ways of dealing with response biases, such as by using the randomized response technique. Handout 8.1 shows the logic of the technique. Point out that, in research, investigators would use a different "innocuous" question. The only requirement for the innocuous question is that we know, based on previous research, what percentage of respondents will agree with the statement.

  6. Review basic descriptive statistics. Either before or after your presentation, you might have students look at this on-line guide for helping nonstatisticians question statistical information.

  7. Discuss more statistical issues, such as

    1. the dangers of making too many comparisons,

    2. the difference between significance testing and estimating effect size,

    3. the implications of level of measurement on analysis and interpretation of analyses,

    4. Common types of analyses such as Chi-square analysis, parameter estimation, and regression.
    5. Using statistics to determine your sample size. To illustrate how this works, you could have students look at this simple explanation and table of sample size and sample accuracy.


  8. Have the class critique surveys (Obtaining surveys is so easy--just don't throw away your junk mail for a few days or, if you're in a rush, you can probably get some surveys from your school's admissions department or your school's office of institutional research.

  9. Laura Madson has devised a fun activity that helps students learn


    General strategy. Give one half the class  one  version of a short survey and the other half a different version. Other than variations in wording, the two surveys are the same. Administer the surveys and then have students compare responses to the two surveys.


    Ways to Implement the strategy

    For more information, see

    Madson, L. (2005). Demonstrating the importance of question wording on surveys. Teaching of Psychology, 32, 40-43.



  10. Use Handout 5.5 in the Instructor's Manual to have students construct an attitude scale or a psychological test.

  11. Conduct a survey in class. This exercise will help students see the distinction between a population and a sample, differences among sampling techniques, the problems of generalizing results from a sample to a population, the problem of self-report bias, and the importance of clearly worded questions. For a sample exercise, see

    Carducci, B. J. (1996). Fighting shyness with shyness: An exercise in survey methodology and

    self-awareness. Teaching of Psychology, 23, 241-243.

    To get a software program that will allow you to administer the survey  from the web or from a desktop computer, download a trial version of InspireData.

  12. Have students create their own surveys. For example, you might ask them to design a survey to find out who people's heroes were (and what qualities people thought a hero should be). Or, they could follow in Robert Sternberg's footsteps and see how people defined love or intelligence. Or, they could extend the research discussed in the chapter about the relationship between work and grade point average (GPA) for high school students by looking at the relationship between work and GPA for college students.

    If you want students to do their survey online, you can have them set up free accounts at any of the following sites:

  13. Work with the class to design a survey that might improve the quality of your course. An existing survey (The Student Assessment of Learning Gains Instrument) is available on-line. This survey can be modified, administered, and analyzed (means and standard deviations) on-line. In addition, you can download the raw data to do your own analyses. Last, but not least, it is free.

  14. Have students report on a study using survey research. This link leads to article suggestions and handouts that help students understand those articles.
  15. Introduce students to regression with this simple, fun, hands-on activity. For a briefer introduction to regression (and to emphasize the problems with outliers), guide students through this great applet.

  16. Analyze real data from several surveys including the General Social Survey. The complete data set has over 35,000 cases and hundreds of variables. The variables represent nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio scales. You can select years and/or variables and download them as text or SPSS files. Even more sources of survey data that can be analyzed are available from the following link.

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