GESIS Training Courses

Scientific Coordination

Sebastian E. Wenz
Tel: +49 221 47694-159

Administrative Coordination

Jacqueline Schüller
Tel: +49 0221 47694-160

Course 2: Introduction to Questionnaire Design

Cologne/Unter Sachsenhausen 6-8
Course Duration
Mo: 10:00-17:00 CEST
Tu-Fr: 9:00 - 16:00 CEST
General Topics:
Course Level:
Software used:
Students: 550 €
Academics: 825 €
Commercial: 1650 €
Additional links
Lecturer(s): Marek Fuchs

About the lecturer - Marek Fuchs

Course description

Designing questions and questionnaires is broadly described as an important step when planning a survey. However, the advice provided on how to phrase individual questions and response categories and how to design a good questionnaire as a whole is often provided in the form of general rules that are often abstract und unspecific. This course will approach questionnaire design by means of two strategies:
  • On the one hand, basic concepts relevant to survey measurement will be discussed (e.g., mode differences, question-answer-process, satisficing, social desirability) to enhance your awareness of the mechanisms underlying survey measurement.
  • On the other hand, you will be introduced to results of field-experimental studies testing various aspects of survey questions and a questionnaire as a whole (e.g., question wording, response order, visual design of a question). The discussion of these studies mostly published in international journal will highlight the implication of various design aspects of a survey question for the answers provided by respondents.
    Based on these two pillars of knowledge, the course aims to educate you in your professional reasoning when designing survey questions and questionnaires. Based on the theoretical concepts and the field-experimental studies discussed in the lectures, you will be guided and supported in designing and testing topical survey questions during practical sessions and by means of assignments.
    The examples discussed in the course will mainly be taken from surveys of individuals and households; the business survey will not be covered. The course is not restricted to a specific survey mode; examples will be taken from face-to-face surveys, telephone surveys, web surveys, and mail surveys. Coverage issues, sampling, weighting, nonresponse, and other aspects of survey design will not be covered.

    Target group

    You will find the course useful if:
    • you plan to or are about to conduct a survey and would like to strengthen your ability to design the questionnaire,
    • you would like to supplement your initial experience in designing questionnaires with evidence-based practical advice based on a sound theoretical basis concerning the underlying mechanisms.

    Learning objectives

    By the end of the course, you will:
    • understand the structure of a survey question and have improved your reasoning about the design of its components,
    • have an overview concerning the various components and properties of survey questions that potentially affect data quality,
    • be able to design simple survey questions of various types,
    • be able to combine the question in a questionnaire and to conduct a simple pre-test,
    • understand the cognitive processes underlying survey measurement for the various survey modes.
    Organizational structure of the course
    This is a five-day course with a total amount of 30 hours of class time.
    • You can expect a mix of interactive teaching, practical sessions and exercises, and an opportunity for individual consultation.
    • Lectures start with an outline of a particular problem or aspect of questionnaire design. Subsequently, a series of studies from the research literature will be used to discuss the current state of the art concerning the problem addressed in each session.
    • In the practical sessions, applications of this scholarly knowledge to specific topical questions will be discussed.
    • Every day you receive an assignment that you are expected to work on during the afternoon. You are expected to upload your individual assignments every night for written feedback. Once during the course, you are expected to present you assignment in class.
    • You should be prepared to spend 1-2 hours a day for reading and daily assignments. During practical sessions and while working on assignments, a teaching assistant will be available for hands-on support.
      • You can either bring your own project that you want to use for the assignments, or you are provided with literature from two substantive areas to choose a topic for your assignments.


    • Basic knowledge in quantitative social science research methods is required.
    • Basic knowledge concerning survey design and data quality is advisable.
    • There are no statistical prerequisites.
    Software and hardware requirements
    You need to bring a laptop computer for performing the practical exercises and assignments.
    You need Microsoft Office software (or a functionally equivalent alternative) installed on your laptop.

    Recommended readings