At a Glance


  • Environmental science

Instructional Level

  • University


  • ENVR 301: Environmental Research Design

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Individual
  • Whole Class

Type of Tasks

  • Collecting & seeking information
  • Discussing
  • Analyzing
  • Creating & designing
  • Taking a quiz & test

Technical Details

Useful Technologies

  • Google Forms, Print outs

Class size

  • Small (20-49)


  • Part of a semester (4-6 weeks)

Instructional Purpose

  • Preparation & knowledge activation
  • Application & knowledge building


The aim of this activity is to provide students with an overview of survey design and execution. Students benefit as they learn question design and sequencing, the ethics involved in administering a survey, and survey analysis.

Using the Active learning approach of Case Studies, this activity takes place over the course of 2 months and informs their work on a final project where they have to use their knowledge about research design and specific methods  (interview, survey etc…) in order to prepare a group research proposal. History of and current research ethics procedures are presented in class in advance of the survey.

Students are shown how to design questions through an example of a faulty survey. Students then design 1-2 questions and the instructor uses them to make a survey of under 20 questions. This draft survey is reviewed as a class and questions or feedback from students considered before the final document is posted. Each student collects data from 5 people (typically other students on campus) and as a class they discuss trends and analyze the process and possible problems with their survey design.

Instructional Objectives

  • To explain strengths and limits of specific research method (in this case surveying)
  • Example of collecting data and designing a successful study

Workflow & Materials


Activity Workflow

View on CourseFlow

Contributor's Notes

  • This activity gives students a chance to try a method they might reference in their research proposal projects, experience data collection (transforming campus into a “”field site””)  and shows how strong survey design generates quality data.
  • Students apply and learn differently, giving them an appetite to refine their process and further develop the ideas they see in the analysis of the results
  • This activity gives students a sense of collegial collaboration.
  • Students learn how to use google forms, which has analysis tools to help with statistical analysis.
  • Research ethics board approval to allow students to collect responses must be secured by the relevant institutional body before data collection. Designing survey to focus on campus and collect no personal identification information from respondents facilitates approval
  • Trying to find the smoothest way to synthesize questions, doing it all in class makes the process more chaotic.
  • Get research ethics board approval well in advance, designed so that approval can be easily renewed each year
  • Give students papers to write on and collect, this helps track in class participation
  • Give students a clear, bounded topic for the survey, a set of steps  on how you will collect the questions, the time they will have for collecting responses, and under what framework you want the additional comments/feedback when students comment on the survey draft.


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