Germany, Cologne

Sensitive Questions in Surveys

when 22 August 2016 - 26 August 2016
language English
duration 1 week
credits 4 ECTS
fee EUR 250

The course gives an overview of problems and solutions associated with asking sensitive questions in survey research. Due to self-presentation concerns, respondents often give socially desirable answers to sensitive questions. Such systematic misreporting leads to bias in survey estimates of the sensitive characteristics. Besides psychological aspects (such as a respondent’s inclination to engage in impression management or self-deception), cumulative empirical evidence indicates that the use of specific design features and data collection methods influences the extent of social desirability bias in sensitive surveys. This course will provide the participants with a substantiated theoretical and practical basis for selecting, designing and implementing appropriate data collection methodologies to improve measurement of sensitive characteristics and achieve better data quality in their own research.
You can find the full syllabus of the course with complete information on the topics, literature, and day-to-day schedule on

Course leader

Dr. Ivar Krumpal is postdoctoral research associate at the Institute of Sociology, University of Leipzig, Germany;
Dr. Felix Wolter is research assistant at the Department of Sociology at the University of Mainz, Germany.

Target group

Participants will find the course useful if they:
- want to obtain an overview about potential problems when doing survey research on sensitive topics and how to deal with these problems;
- consider designing and implementing a survey that contains sensitive questions and would like some input on how to do this;
- want to learn how different design features (e.g., survey mode, question wording, interviewer effects) affect data validity in sensitive surveys;
- would like to know how special questioning methods such as the randomized response technique (RRT) or the item count technique (ICT) can be used in practice and how such data can be analyzed;
- have started a survey project on sensitive topics and would like to receive feedback on it.

Participants should have:
- basic knowledge about survey methodology and questionnaire design,
- a basic understanding of statistics is assumed, at the level of analysis of variance (ANOVA) and multiple (linear and logistic) regression,
- preferably some experience with the statistical software package Stata,
- participants can submit a two-page summary of their current research project to the instructors before July 22th 2016 or else inform the instructors that they are not bringing a specific project to the course.

Course aim

By the end of the course participants will:
- have an overview of the various survey methods which have been developed for the research on sensitive topics;
- have a better theoretical understanding of the social interactions and the response process in sensitive surveys;
- be able to identify whether a topic or question in a survey is prone to social desirability bias and choose appropriate research strategies to tackle the problem;
- be able to select suitable design features for their own research on sensitive topics;
- be familiar with special questioning techniques such as the RRT and the ICT;
- have acquired basic knowledge of how to analyze data collected by these special questioning techniques.

Credits info

- Certificate of attendance issued upon completion.
Optional bookings:
- 2 ECTS points via the University of Mannheim for regular attendance and satisfactory work on daily assignments (EUR 20).
- 4 ECTS points via the University of Mannheim for regular attendance and satisfactory work on daily assignments and for submitting a paper/report of about 5000 words to the lecturer(s) up to 4 weeks after the end of the summer school (EUR 50).

Fee info

EUR 250: Student/PhD student rate.
EUR 350: Academic/non-profit rate.
Early bird discount: EUR 50 for applicants who book and pay by April 30.
The rates include the tuition fee, course materials, the academic program, access to library and IT facilities, coffee/tea, and a number of social activities.


10 DAAD scholarships are available via the Center for Doctoral Studies in Social and Behavioral Sciences (CDSS) at the University of Mannheim.