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Survey Research Operations

Survey Research Operations (SRO) is the data collection unit within the Survey Research Center. SRO provides a wide range of survey design, data collection and data processing services to both internal and external research clients. SRO conducts cross-national, national, regional, and methodological surveys. SRO also provides consultation and project management for international and multi-national research projects. SRO has the infrastructure, capability, and experience to conduct surveys in multiple, mixed, and sequential modes. These modes include in-person, telephone, mail, web, Interactive Voice Response (IVR), text messaging, and video-mediated surveys.

General Methodological and Statistical Consultation

SRC has been at the forefront of statistical and methodological practice and research for more than 60 years. Within SRO, the Design, Methodology & Statistical Support Unit collaborates with the Statistical Design Group to carry forward this rich tradition in its development and application of approaches to address the challenges of 21st century survey research. This unit is comprised of leading research faculty from SRC’s Program in Survey Methodology, staff statisticians and methodologists, as well as graduate students from the Program in Survey Methodology.

SRO’s faculty and professional staff are pushing the frontiers of survey methodology with research on the development of modeling approaches to guide interviewer effort, assessment of the viability of commercial address lists for sampling, and identification of predictors of field interviewer attrition. This research draws on the extensive data resources that SRC surveys provide and randomized methodological experiments that we design and implement in collaboration with our clients. Our research is not only widely cited in the survey methodology literature but it is also applied to surveys in real-time, leading to cost savings and quality improvements.

Sample Design

The present-day work of SRO’s Design, Methodology & Statistical Support Unit builds on the foundation laid by Leslie Kish and his SRC colleagues who pioneered survey sampling techniques in the 20th century. SRO continues its prominence today through its involvement in sample selection for some of the nation’s most widely-used social science and public health data resources.

Our expertise in sample design and selection is vast, including multi-stage area probability samples of the U.S. population, list-based samples of military personnel and professional society members, school-based samples of teacher and student populations, and respondent-driven sampling techniques.

Weighting and Imputation

Our staff are trained in the most current weighting and imputation methods, and they boast extensive experience applying these methods in the creation of sampling weights and imputed values. Members of the Design, Methodology & Statistical Support Unit were involved in developing Imputation and Variance Estimation (IVEware) software, one of the first commonly available software programs for imputation. Using this software, we can perform single or multiple imputations of missing values and can produce both descriptive and model-based survey statistics with imputed values that appropriately reflect any complex sample design features, such as clustering, stratification and weighting. Clients are supplied with detailed documentation on how weights and imputed values were created and how the weights and imputed values should be used.

Questionnaire Design

SRO has extensive experience in creating and developing a variety of instruments in collaboration with multidisciplinary teams of multi-ethnic research staff, local social scientists and specialists. SRO’s focus is to prepare a data collection instrument that meets high priority scientific needs with high reliability. To ensure the measures are culturally-appropriate and comparable, an iterative process of translation, adaptation, testing, and revision is used.

Project Management

SRO maintains a staff of highly skilled and experienced project directors and managers who work closely with researchers to plan and implement each project. SRO managers are trained in survey methods as well as the latest project management techniques and technical systems. They become active members of the research team for each project, and provide input on survey design, questionnaire development, field procedures, and study-specific interviewer training, to ensure that project goals are met as efficiently as possible. SRO has developed a series of interactive reporting systems including paradata dashboards to monitor key production and sample indicators, which are used by the project team in making adjustments to maximize quality and efficiency throughout the data collection period. Cost monitoring is also an important part of SRO project management, and SRO’s Cost Reporting System provides detailed daily cost information that allows the project director to update cost projections on a regular basis, in order to provide the client with accurate estimates of final project cost.


SRO maintains a training department that develops and coordinates interviewer training programs and staff development workshops and seminars. The interviewer training regimen developed at SRO has been adopted by organizations throughout the world. The SRO training program includes sets of interactive electronic materials for home study and refresher training, as well as specialized modules on topics such as refusal aversion, sampling, and human subject considerations.

Data Collection

SRO maintains an experienced field management team made up of production managers and team leaders. They are responsible for hiring, training and supervising interviewers, implementing a wide variety of survey designs, quality control activities in the field, as well as for validation activities and monitoring interviewers’ weekly progress and cost reports. SRO maintains an active national field staff that has numbered as many as 1000 interviewers – with the capability to expand to meet project demands. SRO interviewers are well-educated, experienced, and represent the diversity of over 140 areas in which they work. SRO also retains a bilingual interviewing staff in areas of high concentrations of non-English speaking households, and is able to hire specialized interviewers to meet specific project needs.

SRO has a strong track record of implementing and collecting a variety of biomarker and anthropometric data. Interviewers also have been trained to administer standardized cognitive and developmental assessments to both children and adult respondents. In many cases, we have modified our data collection systems to facilitate the testing process, greatly improving accuracy and validity rates within the assessments.

SRO operates a state-of-the-art telephone facility which has been conducting Computer-Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI) surveys since 1975. The computer-assisted interviewing (CAI) software and physical facilities are regularly updated to ensure the highest possible quality for all national, regional and local projects. Samples of interviews are monitored, and interviewers are evaluated on interviewing technique (question reading, probing, data recording, etc.) as well as on qualitative factors (pace, clarity, and tone, etc.). The facility also carries out numerous other activities in support of survey efforts including questionnaire pre-testing, respondent-interviewer behavior coding, questionnaire review and editing, mail survey administration, focus group moderation, cognitive interviewing, the recruitment of focus group and cognitive interview participants, and data entry.

Across all data collection projects, SRO uses state-of-the-art electronic sample management systems, that allow for mixed and multiple modes, smooth transfer of work between field and telephone staffs as appropriate, and constant data transmission and detailed reporting through centralized secure data servers.

Data Processing

SRO performs data entry for paper and pencil studies, as well as coding for open-ended questions from both paper and pencil and CAI surveys. An experienced staff of coders, supervisors, and data entry and support personnel design and build code frames. They also oversee the final checking function during which errors are detected and corrected by the coders or brought to the attention of the project staff. Production coding and data entry are done using CAI software, which facilitates working with interview data and performs a series of automatic checks designed to eliminate wild or inconsistent codes. SRO also works with established vendors to implement optical scanning of paper questionnaires and other forms.


SRO provides a broad range of analytic services from descriptive statistics to analyses using advanced multivariate techniques. We work closely with each client to develop and implement an analysis plan that is designed to meet the project’s analytic goals. SRO has developed a series of tools to aid in processing and analyzing these data, including user-friendly paradata dashboards, a quality monitoring system, and automated SAS and R routines. These tools allow us to identify potential threats to efficiency or quality in real-time and implement strategies to address these threats during data collection.

Please submit the Survey Request Form to inquire about capability and costs for conducting a survey with SRO. Or, to contact us with questions regarding design or for other consultation:

Lisa Holland
Director&Design, Methodology & Statistical Support
[email protected]