Germany, Cologne

Understanding and Modeling Measurement Error in Social Surveys

when 15 August 2016 - 19 August 2016
language English
duration 1 week
credits 4 ECTS
fee EUR 250

This course provides a comprehensive introduction to measurement error (ME) in survey research. This is a crucial topic because there are always errors in the measurement and if we do not take this into account, substantive results may be completely wrong without realizing it. First, we will discuss some basic concepts in the field of ME and discuss the epistemological background of the distinction between conceptual validity and measurement validity. Examples and ways to reduce measurement error will be discussed, such as basic rules for question wording. Then, attention shifts from reduction of error to measuring error. In a first step the findings of “split ballots” will be critically reviewed, and this approach will be critically evaluated. This is an occasion to introduce the cognitive insights in question wording and order effect that may provide deeper understanding of what is going on in the question-answer process. In next step we will discuss the modeling of measurement error using models for assessing reliability and validity such as the MTMM model. The course will also have a detailed look at response styles in survey questions, as it is an important source of measurement error. We will use acquiescence as a generic example and model it using Structural Equation Modelling (SEM). Finally, specific problems of measurement in the context of cross-cultural research are shortly reviewed. This is an opportunity to inform the participants about a related course on approaches to equivalence testing in cross-cultural studies which is a key requirement if one wants to compare data across countries or groups. The practical exercises will guide participants to apply the concepts and procedures learned in the theoretical sessions. The software Mplus and data from the ESS will be used.
You can find the full syllabus of the course with complete information on the topics, literature, and day-to-day schedule on

Course leader

Prof. Dr. Jaak Billiet is professor emeritus in social methodology at KU Leuven, NL;
Prof. Melanie Revilla, PhD is researcher at the Research and Expertise Centre for Survey Methodology (RECSM) and associate professor at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelo

Target group

Participants will find the course useful if they:
- are PhD students who will use survey data in their work;
- employees in survey or marketing institutes who are engaged in the analysis of survey data, or in preparation of survey questionnaires;
- are exceptionally specialized research master students interested in measurement error if this topic is not covered in their program.

- Students must be motivated to apply what they will learn in their own research and should be interested in the quality of survey data.
- Basic knowledge of statistical analysis and structural equation modelling. The examples in the theoretical part are based on LISREL_8® and participants should be able to interpret the parameters but the concepts used are general applicable in empirical analysis of ME. The practical exercises assume a minimum practical knowledge of Mplus. For those not familiar with it, these requirements can be fulfilled by attending course "Introduction to the Structural Equation Modelling framework" in the previous week.

Course aim

By the end of the course participants will:
- have acquired a thorough understanding of the different kinds of measurement error related to the instrument (questionnaire) in social surveys;
- be aware of ways to detect, measure and control for errors;
- be familiar with the most recent developments and literature in the field of measurement error, especially in the context of large scale cross-cultural surveys;
- be familiar with the best practices in the field;
- be able to apply the strategies in practice.

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.