SRL is a research and service unit established in 1964. It is a division of the University of Illinois at Chicago's College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs that provides survey research services to
SRL has offices on the Chicago and Urbana-Champaign campuses of the University and can undertake complete survey projects from initial study design through data analysis. It also can conduct partial survey work such as sampling, questionnaire design, focus groups, data collection, instrument programming, and data reduction and can provide consultation on survey problems on a fee-for-service basis.
Almost since its inception, SRL has had major ongoing programs in survey methodology. In recent years, SRL's methodological research has focused on cognition; response effects; respondent selection; questionnaire design and interviewing techniques for collecting hard-to-obtain data; validity of self-reported data; and improved techniques for face-to-face, mail, and telephone surveys, particularly for surveys on sensitive topics and with special populations. More recently, SRL has developed methodological interests in cross-cultural sources of survey measurement error and the unique challenges of conducting social surveys in urbanized environments. The majority of this research has been carried out in the area of health, reflecting the interests and expertise of the senior research staff.
SRL can undertake complete survey projects from initial study design through data analysis; conduct partial survey work, such as sampling, questionnaire design, focus groups (download document to the right for more information), data collection, and data reduction; and consult on specific survey problems. A field staff of interviewers is available for face-to-face interview surveys in the Chicago metropolitan area and elsewhere in Illinois, and supervisory personnel have been sent to sampling points throughout the U.S. either to conduct interviews or to hire, train, and supervise local interviewers. SRL’s services are available on a fee-for-service basis. Detailed budgets and cost estimates can be provided.
SRL can conduct local, statewide, regional, and national telephone and mail surveys. It maintains a centrally supervised telephone interviewing center that uses the University's least-cost routing system for long-distance calls. Having been involved in over 300 telephone studies, SRL staff have developed expertise in identifying and interviewing such specific populations as persons with limited mobility or disabilities, smokers, people age 70 or older, physicians, and employers. Computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI), using CASES software developed at the University of California, Berkeley, is routinely used in conducting telephone studies at SRL. Computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) and other computer-based survey technologies are also available for conducting face-to-face and self-administered surveys.
The Questionnaire Design Laboratory (QDL) conducts both basic and applied research with funding from several federal agencies. The QDL now is routinely involved in the cognitive assessment of many questionnaires fielded at SRL, and its director also chairs an internal questionnaire review committee. An example of a project in which the QDL has been involved is a study of the cognitive processing of survey questions by culturally diverse respondents.
SRL project coordinators are experts in survey design, project management, questionnaire construction, and analysis. They provide the major link between project sponsors and SRL section staff members. Under the project coordinator's guidance, a survey passes through all the component phases from design and budgeting to analysis and report writing.
At SRL, separate sections have been established corresponding to the four major phases of a survey project: Sampling, Field (data collection), Data Reduction, and Computer Services. These sections have the primary responsibility for implementing their respective phases of a survey. A fifth section, Survey Systems, was organized to coordinate the growing computer programming demands of SRL's survey operations. In addition, one or more project coordinators are assigned to each project to coordinate the activities of the technical specialists in the sections and to provide additional technical expertise. The staff members assigned to each project work as a team to conduct the project according to the overall goals and specifications provided by the client.
The Sampling Section has the experience and capability of employing the most sophisticated sampling procedures.To carry out such work, this section maintains computer files listing all working telephone exchanges in the U.S., Census data, and other sampling resources.
The Field Section is responsible for all interviewing conducted by SRL. Telephone interviewing is done during the evenings, on weekends, and, when appropriate, during the daytime from SRL’s two telephone facilities. In-person interviews are conducted in respondent homes across the state of Illinois, at organizations, or on-site at SRL. Although traditional paper-and-pencil methods are possible, most interviewing is conducted via SRL’s customized CATI system. The Field Section emphasizes strict quality control standards throughout all phases of the data collection process.
The Data Reduction (DR) Section employs student workers who prepare mail surveys as well as edit and code data for those questionnaires. In addition, DR staff employ CASES programming for data entry of paper instruments. Quality control procedures are also emphasized during all phases of data reduction.
SRL's Office of Survey Systems (OSS) works with the computer-related aspects of interviewing. OSS contributes to the design and programming of software to schedule, screen, track, and conduct CATI interviews. Data entry programs (with range and inter-item consistency checks) are prepared for paper-and-pencil studies. After the data collection period, staff members produce and run cleaning programs on closed-ended variables and produce composite variables as necessary. They also produce standardized documentation and, if requested, SAS or SPSS program setups to facilitate analysis.
The work of these sections is supported by the staff of the following SRL sections or offices:
The Office of Computer Services (OCS) provides general technical support for SRL staff; maintains all computers, software, and related equipment; and works with the other sections on the computer-related aspects of survey projects. For example, OCS contributes to the design and programming of software to schedule, screen, and conduct CATI interviews. OCS provides programming support while studies are in the field and during data reduction. OCS also maintains SRL's multisite user network, computer-assisted telephone interviewing system, portable laptop computers for face-to-face data collection, internal and Web site connections, and a large variety of statistical and other software programs. SRL's computer facilities include 32 interviewing stations plus four supervisor monitoring stations.
The Accounting/Grants Management Section oversees all financial, grants management, and personnel activities at SRL and serves as the primary contact with other University units on these matters. This section is responsible for the preparation, review, and management of the business portions of contracts and grants prepared by and/or awarded to SRL. Accounting maintains the system that provides detailed listings of costs on all projects and can provide clients, through the project coordinators, with budget information throughout the project process.
Information Services provides editorial support for the staff of SRL; supervises the production of all official SRL publications, including the Annual Report and Survey Research newsletter; and maintains SRL's external and internal Web sites. To provide readily accessible information on survey research methodology, SRL maintains a small private library collection. The Coordinator of Survey Research Information Services serves as the main point of contact for persons or organizations seeking more information about SRL.