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Survey research: Getting helpful answers to important questions

Te Rangahau Kohikohi Mōhiohio: te whai whakautu pai ki ngā pātai whakahirahira

Wednesday 19 February 2020

Public health research depends on collecting or using existing data. But how do we find or collect data that will enable us to address the important questions we want to answer?

This course examines existing data sources that may be used to inform policy and advocacy, and outlines basic principles that can guide questionnaire development and data collection.

Topics covered

  • Examine key Government and monitoring surveys, topics they cover, their strengths and weaknesses, and how the data collected may be accessed and used.
  • Explore how to develop research questions and then create survey questions that address these.
  • Workshop survey questions and explore the good, the bad, and the incomprehensible.
  • Discuss how to identify relevant populations and consider approaches to drawing samples.
  • Consider different survey modes and how these suit different populations.
  • Discuss collecting data from and returning data to Māori.
  • Workshop developing a survey.

Style of course

Small group – teaching and discussions in a group of up to 30 people.

Who should attend?

This course is aimed at anyone who is involved in policy, advocacy or decision-making.

(If applicable) By the end of this course participants should have the knowledge/skills to

  • Understand the key decisions involved in designing surveys.
  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different surveys.

Draft timetable

Time Session Presenter(s)
8:30am Registration
9:00am Welcome and introduction Janet Hoek
9:10am What survey resources do we have and how can we access and use these? James Stanley
9:50am What decisions do we need to make when developing surveys? Janet Hoek
10:30am Morning tea
11:00am Research questions and survey questions Janet Hoek
11:40am Group exercise: survey questions – the good, the bad and the incomprehensible Janet Hoek
12:20pm Brief overview and summary Janet Hoek
12:30pm Lunch break
1:30pm Respectful collection and return of data Anaru Waa
2:00pm Finding the right approach for different groups Janet Hoek
2:30pm Reaching relevant people James Stanley
3:00pm Afternoon tea  
3:30pm Group exercise: developing a short survey Janet Hoek
4:30pm Brief overview and summary Janet Hoek
4:45pm Course evaluation  
5:00pm Finish
5.30pm Evening event (if relevant)  


Researchers from the University of Otago Wellington will lead these discussions and workshops.

  • Janet Hoek studied question wording and survey design, and teaches the Diploma in Public Health Survey Methods paper. She has a long-standing interest in words and questions.
  • Anaru Waa is a social scientist and Māori researcher who has extensive experience in designing and running surveys. He leads the HRC-funded Te Ara Auahi Kore project, which involves an extensive survey of Māori smokers.
  • James Stanley is a biostatistician and health researcher at the University of Otago, Wellington. He has designed sampling strategies for several large-scale surveys and frequently works with complex survey datasets like the New Zealand Health Survey.

Course cost and registration

$300 early bird, $400 after 19 December 2019.

A 50% discount is available to full-time students, those unwaged and University of Otago staff.

Register now