Purpose of the assignment

Surveys are the most common type of formal research conducted in public relations. They are also far more complex than is commonly understood, and many practitioners are untrained in proper research methods; this situation leads to numerous poorly constructed survey research, which in turn can misrepresent the context being investigated and lead to failed campaigns and communication efforts. It is therefore important to have a solid grasp of the basic principles of quantitative research such as sampling and analysis, as well as specifics of survey design. With this assignment, students will have the chance to design, administer, and analyze data from a survey on a public relations question to be agreed upon in advance with the instructor.


The survey assignment is broken down into multiple parts, each of which builds progressively from the previous steps.

Each step gives students the opportunity to receive feedback and course-correct before continuing on with their project, to produce their best possible work in the end. The intermediate steps count for relatively few points, but together add up to the total points of the survey project, which counts for 25% of the grade for the course.


In previous weeks, each team has composed  a problem statement pertaining to a communication issue and that meets the criteria set forth in class.  This semester, all problem statements should somehow contribute to our class-wide investigation of issues of reputation and relationships of the Cronkite School.

Students have also developed  between one and three research questions based on the problem statement. The survey should investigate one or more of these questions.


The sampling frame must be appropriate for the type of questions to be investigated. The sampling frame will indicate:

  • the population to be studied
  • the type of sample
  • the proposed sampling strategy
  • the complete sampling frame (i.e., list of contacts)
  • mention of any potential coverage error
  • distribution method
  • the size of the proposed sample
  • the confidence level of the sample


The survey instrument will be designed according to the principles discussed in the readings and class lectures/discussions, and be appropriate for both the research questions and the planned distribution method, including appropriate:

  • number of questions
  • question order
  • types of questions
  • phrasing of questions (avoiding bias, double-barreled questions, etc.)

Students will prepare an individual survey for peer and instructor feedback. Each survey must address one or more of the team’s research questions and follow guidelines for appropriate phrasing and question order. Surveys must also meet the following guidelines:

  • A total of 10-12 questions
  • No more than 1 closed question (other than demographics)
  • No open-ended questions
  • Both Likert and semantic differential scales (multi-item)
  • At least 2 but no more than 4 demographic questions
  • Focus on the dimensions of attitude (affective, cognitive, connotative), especially perceptions, and the dimensions of relationships (control mutuality, trust, satisfaction, commitment, exchange relationships, and communal relationships) that we’ve discussed in previous weeks

Surveys will be composed directly in SurveyMonkey using the class account. Login information is posted on Blackboard.

Individual surveys will be reviewed by teammates and the instructor. Each student must give review feedback on Blackboard to a total of 5 students, which should include all fellow team members, plus at least two others. Based on feedback, the team will compile a joint survey reflecting the best work of its members; this is the survey that will be distributed and reported. It is also the survey that will count for the grade of all team members.


Before you distribute your survey, you must have a plan for how you will analyze the data you gather. This also allows you to double-check that you will be collecting the kinds of information you need for the analyses you intend to perform. The data analysis plan includes a list of the different levels of measurement for your survey questions, a complete coding scheme, and a list of the descriptive and inferential analyses you plan to carry out on your data. Once your data have been collected, you may alter the data plan as needed, but remember that you are limited by the type of data you have collected (and the remaining available time before the final due date).


Finally, you will write a report of your research as though addressing a client. The final report will include:

  • the problem statement, research questions, and sampling frame (with any changes or adjustments made in the final study);
  • the sampling frame, including acknowledgment of potential errors due to the strategies adopted, and an indication of the response rate compared to the original sample size;
  • a summary and discussion of the findings based on the data analyses;
  • the survey instrument (in an appendix)

The final survey report gives the student the final opportunity to make any necessary adjustments to the various components (where possible: obviously, once administered the survey itself cannot be changed, for example). The survey report should be written in professional report format, including all relevant tables, charts, and references.

For details about the report and what it should include, see the specific instructions on report writing.

More details on the various segments of this assignment will be given as we approach each deadline.

Each segment is due on the date indicated in the syllabus. Please submit your assignment electronically via Blackboard, unless announced otherwise in class. If you have any questions or difficulties that are not resolved during class or lab time, feel free to visit me during office hours, arrange an appointment, or email.


Below is a summary breakdown of the various stages of the survey design project, and the relative weight of each:

Assignment Points
Peer review 15
Sampling frame 25
Survey 75
Data analysis plan 25
Completed survey report 95
Group presentation 15
Total 250

Extra credit opportunity

For extra credit, a student may submit secondary research pertaining to the research questions.

Scholarly sources from library databases should make up the bulk of the secondary research, since these are the most reliable sources for concept definitions and methodological examples. Each student should identify at least 4 scholarly references that are relevant to the survey project. Citations should be in APA format. A maximum of 25 extra credit points are available.

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