Trends, Challenges and the Art of Survey Writing for Research: Online- (2 days)

Taught by instructors with real-world experience as campaign consultants, survey researchers and data scientists, this masterclass will focus on teaching you about survey design. You will be shown how political survey research works, and sometimes doesn’t, how technology and social trends are changing survey research, and the best ways to write effective survey questions.


This course will be run over 2 days in three sessions per day:


  • 10.00 am - 11.30 am - Session 1
  • 12.00 pm - 1.30 pm - Session 2
  • 2.30 pm - 4.00 pm - Session 3


This course is being held online via Zoom and run on Australian Eastern Standard Time (GMT +10)


Master Class - runs over 2 days

Dr Shaun Ratcliff is an applied data scientist, political scientist and survey researcher. Over the past six years, he has provided consulting services for national political campaigns, trade unions, corporate and not-for-profit clients. He is currently working on several projects, including as a consulting data scientist for survey research firm YouGov. He manages complex survey projects, designing instruments to measure and track behaviours and attitudes, and identifying ways to engage with the public. He also applies innovative data science methods to political, policy and industry research.
He has a PhD in political science from Monash University, and holds an affiliation with the University of Sydney, where he is a lecturer in data science in the Faculty of Engineering and holds an honorary appointment with the United States Studies Centre. He has also taught at The University of Melbourne and Monash University.
Between 2017 and 2022, he directed the survey research program at the United States Studies Centre. He also coordinated the 2019 Cooperative Australian Election Survey. With a sample of more than 7,000 respondents, this is the largest academic election survey run in Australia to date. His academic research focuses on the issue preferences and political behaviour of voters. Current projects include work to understand citizens’ attitudes towards the COVID-19 pandemic and public policy responses.
For further details visit his website

About this course: 

We are in the middle of a data revolution. Research and decision-making in the private, not for profit and public sectors are not immune from these trends, and have become increasingly data-driven.


Data collection is a significant part of this, and the use of surveys has become increasingly important to gather information on public opinion and consumer behaviour. However, there have been some high profile misses in recent years: the 2016 US Presidential election and Brexit being the most significant of these. What caused these errors, and can good survey design save us from making the same mistakes?


Taught by an instructor with real-world experience as a campaign consultant, survey researcher and data scientist, this masterclass will focus on teaching you about survey design.


We will explore how surveys can be effectively used to collect data for research, target campaigns and messaging, or design policy. You will be shown how modern survey research works, and sometimes doesn’t, how technology and social trends are changing survey research, and the best ways to write effective survey questions. It will provide you with the knowledge and skills to develop the survey instruments needed for data-driven research, decision making and advice.


Course syllabus: 

Day 1

    1. a) Introductions b) The anatomy of a survey (mode, sample and uses)
    2. What makes a good survey question?
    3. Reducing measurement error (from respondents and your survey design)


Day 2

    1. Data^2: matching survey data to other information, and ethical concerns
    2. The art of survey writing: questionnaire develpoment and design
    3. a) problems facing survey research, and some solutions b) conclusion

Course format: 

This workshop will take place online ‘live’ via zoom.

There are no specific software prerequisites, just email, a web browser and a word processor

Recommended Background: 

No Prerequisites needed.


Recommended Texts: 

Some light reading will be provided before the course begins.

Participant feedback: 

Great in-depth coverage of survey design and related concepts, applicable to a range of disciplines


Small classes and the ability to ask questions as well as drop comments in the zoom chat during the course was very helpful.


The online format was great, largely due to Shaun's presentation style.


The first day was pitched at exactly the right level for me. I have some survey design experience, but no technical training, so it crystallised some of what I knew, and introduced some new knowledge. The second day was a bit faster and territory I was less familiar with, but it was still a useful overview and I can now do a bit more of my own research when it
becomes relevant for my work.


Program where course next likely to be offered: 
Master-class October 2022: The Art of Survey Writing: Online
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