Beginning again!

Hello students, faculty, and the amazing people of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign! Your home for qualitative and quantitative research assistance, the Scholarly Commons, is re-opening with brand new hours!

That’s right, for the entirety of this beautiful fall semester we will be open from 8:30 am to 6 pm!

Will the Scholarly Commons still be hosting all its fantastic services this fall?

Why yes – yes they will!

The Scholarly Commons will be hosting:

Statistical Consulting :

Mondays: 10-4

Tuesdays: 10-4

Wednesdays: 10-1, 2-5

Thursdays: 10-4

Fridays: 10-4

The Survey Research Lab from 1-4 on Thursdays

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And GIS Consultations

Mondays 9-2

Tuesdays 12-4

Wednesdays 9-1

Thursdays 11-1

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The Scholarly Commons is hosting a Data Visualization Competition!

Make your data something beautiful – and you could win big!

We’re also hosting an Open House on October 9th!

Stop by Main Library 220 from 4-5:30!

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So much to see! So much to do!

We hope to see you all soon!

Survey Research Methods Webinars Spring 2018

The Survey Research Laboratory is offering two webinars on survey research methodology during the Spring 2018 semester. The webinars are free to University faculty, staff and students. All webinars begin at 12:00 p.m.


You will receive a reminder about the webinar for which you have registered shortly before the date. Webinar notes will be available here shortly before the webinar.

Introduction to Survey Sampling
Wednesday, February 14, noon

Presenter: Linda Owens

This webinar will cover the basics of sampling methodology: the importance of using proper sampling techniques, determining the appropriate sampling methodology, and calculating necessary sample sizes. The discussion also will include simple random sampling, cluster sampling, stratified sampling, and multistage samples.

Introduction to Questionnaire Design
Wednesday, February 21, noon

Presenter: Allyson Holbrook

Designing a good questionnaire is a complicated process that includes decisions ranging from questionnaire format and question order to question wording and response categories. The design should aid respondent understanding of questions, recall, and judgment formation, and minimize response editing because of social desirability. This workshop will review basic strategies for achieving these goals.

Survey Response Rates: Uses and Misuses
Wednesday, February 28, noon

Presenter: Timothy Johnson

What is a “good” response rate, and why does it matter? These are common questions that we see at the Survey Research Laboratory. This webinar will provide a basic overview of survey response, cooperation and refusal rates, their uses, and why they are often imperfect indicators of survey quality and representativeness.

Survey Research Methods Webinars Fall 2017

The Survey Research Laboratory is offering two webinars on survey research methodology during the Fall 2017 semester. The webinars are free to University faculty, staff and students. All webinars begin at 12:00 p.m.


You will receive a reminder about the webinar for which you have registered shortly before the date. Webinar notes will be available here shortly before the webinar.

Social Desirability in Survey Research

Wednesday, November 1, noon

Presenter: Timothy Johnson

Researchers who study sensitive social topics are often confronted with the problem of survey measurement error due to social desirability concerns. This webinar will provide an overview of this important issue and consider various methodologies for addressing it.

Survey Experiments

Wednesday, November 8, noon

Presenter: Allyson Holbrook

Survey researchers are increasingly embedding experiments in surveys in order to maximize both internal validity and generalizability. This webinar will describe the ways that experiments have been used in survey research to explore both methodological questions and substantive questions.

Review: The Infographic History of the World by Valentina D’Efilippo and James Ball

The Infographic History of the World, created by Valentina D’Efilippo and James Ball, consists of various infographics with accompanying commentaries. You can find this book and read it at Scholarly Commons, near our other infographic and visualization books! You can also check it out from a nearby library!

Overall, this book is a compelling read and an interesting idea as a project and some of the infographics were really well done. This book demonstrates the power of infographics to help us present and break down important topics to wider audiences. Yes, this isn’t supposed to be a serious read, but there was a lot I did not like about this book, specifically throughout I got a sense that:

Statue of a person with hands over face. Located by the Main Library entrance facing the UGL

Somewhere a political scientist is crying…     Photo credit to E. Hardesty and the Main Library with the original image found at

  • “The story of the last 4,000 years is one of nations being founded, breaking apart, going to war, and coming together” (D’Efilippo & Ball, 2013). For those confused why this is a problem, “nation” is a very modern term and concept so that’s a serious anachronism.
  • Why is the theocracy symbol notably non-Western and not used for the English Civil War, which was apparently about republicanism?
  • A history of the “Net” that doesn’t mention Minitel.
  • First flight goes to the Wright Brothers. No mention of Santos-Dumont or the controversy (for everyone who noticed that inexplicable early aircraft cameo at this year’s Olympic opening).
  • The book is very Anglo-centric.

Sloppy stats!


  • I’m suspicious anytime Luxembourg wins something. Are they really the biggest drinkers or how does their small population make this data less meaningful?
  • “Absolute number of cannabis users by region” Absolute? Really?
  • Overall, not enough information on where and how a lot of the statistics were generated and why we should trust those sources. Yes, there is an appendix on the back that explains this to some extent in tiny text but not helpful for people who just glance at the infographic and assume it’s giving us useful information about the world.

Visualization issues!


  • Emphasizing form over function — much like the new Macbooks with so few ports they are practically landlocked — many of the infographics fail to present the information in a way that is appropriate for what they are trying to present. For example, the Mona Lisa paint by numbers probably would have been more effective as a timeline.
    • Maybe I’m just too attached to the idea of timelines being well on a line or perhaps maybe the spiral depicted on the book’s cover art.
    • Some of the infographics have way too many things going on and are trying to make too many points at once.
  • The colors on the mental illness brain are too close (and I can’t imagine how that would look to someone who is colorblind), and there are other examples where the colors are very close and render the infographic pretty, but hard to actually use to learn something from.

Finally, the authors’ claim of “not trying to be political” / “this is just for fun” is no excuse for not being thorough especially with information targeted to the public. Full disclosure or not, artists and journalists still need to be careful because what people see can influence the way they think about things. Infographics are not a neutral presentation of information, certain choices were made, and audiences need to think about who made these choices and why. Not as bad as some of the examples on this Visual Literacy and Infographics blog post, but still problematic. Please, do not be reckless when making infographics!

To learn more how to create infographics of your own check out our Savvy Researcher workshop: Introduction to Infographics Using Piktochart!

If you are an undergraduate interested in conducting research and becoming information and visual literate there is an entire set of classes in the history department for this through SourceLab. Take a look at their schedule or talk to Professor Randolph to learn more!


Survey Research Webinar Series Spring 2017

If you’re interested in learning how to conduct research, you’ll want to check out the Survey Research Webinar Series! Each webinar is free to University of Illinois faculty, staff, and students and begin at 12:00 pm Central time. The following is a list of the semester’s offerings:

  • Organizational Surveys. Wednesday, February 15
    • Presenter: Timothy Johnson

    • Individuals are not the only unit of analysis when conducting social surveys! Increasingly, surveys are focusing on larger social groupings. This workshop will address some of the unique aspects of organizational surveys and some of the best practices for conducting them.

    • Register here
  • Introduction to Political Polling. Wednesday, March 1
    • Presenter: Allyson Holbrook

    • This webinar will explain how surveys or “polls” are used to predict and understand political elections and how political polls are different from other kinds of surveys, and the strengths and weaknesses of political polls. Political polling will be considered particularly in the context of the 2016 presidential election.

    • Register here
  • Ethics in Survey Research. Wednesday, March 8
    • Presenter: Timothy Johnson

    • This webinar will provide an overview of ethical considerations in the conduct of survey research. Some of the topics to be discussed include informed consent, confidentiality, interviewer training & oversight, and secondary research subjects.

    • Register here
  • Introduction to Survey Sample Weighting. Wednesday, March 15
    • Presenter: Linda Owens

    • This webinar will cover the basics of constructing statistical weights for survey samples. It will cover the underlying rationales for using sample weights, consider the different kinds of sample weights commonly used, and provide basic examples of each.

    • Register here


Register for Spring 2017 Workshops at CITL!

Exciting news for anyone interested in learning the basics of statistical and qualitative analysis software! Registration is open for workshops to be held throughout spring semester at the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning! There will be workshops on ATLAS.ti, R, SAS, Stata, SPSS, and Questionnaire Design on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in February and March from 5:30-7:30 pm. To learn more details and to register click here to go to the workshops offered by CITL page. And if you need a place to use these statistical and qualitative software packages, such as to practice the skills you gained at the workshops stop by Scholarly Commons, Monday-Friday 9 am- 6 pm! And don’t forget, you can also schedule a consultation with our experts here for specific questions about using statistical and qualitative analysis software for your research!

Best Practices Resources: The Research Clinic

Mary Homans, John Staley and Edward Till, working on a model of a proposed NYA (National Youth Administration) training camp at the Landscape Architectural School. Iowa State College. Ames, Iowa

Jack Delano, “Mary Homans, John Staley and Edward Till, working on a model of a proposed NYA (National Youth Administration) training camp at the Landscape Architectural School. Iowa State College. Ames, Iowa.” Negative. May 1942. Library of Congress collection of Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives, Accessed September 6, 2016.

As a researcher, it can sometimes be difficult to draw the line between what is and is not appropriate behavior while working with those participating in your project. That’s why the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) and the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) created “The Research Clinic,” an interactive training video, which can help researchers learn how to protect their research participants and to avoid misconduct.

Now, it’s not quite World of Warcraft, but you choose one of four characters (my personal favorite is Megan Boyle, “a research assistant who has difficulties obtaining informed consent and following research protocols” who has a lot of student loan debt) and work through different video scenarios as that character. The goal of the program is to go back in time, and figure out what steps your character should have taken in order to have done their research ethically. The tutorial also links the viewer to optional information about aspects of the research process they need some extra information on.

“The Research Clinic” manages to mix an ethics lesson with an online game that mimics a game of whodunit with engaging humor and personality. However, in order to use it, one needs an up-to-date version of Adobe Flash Player, as well as a good Internet connection, as the videos can take time to load. “The Research Clinic” has several accessibility options, including closed captions and text voice over, as well as several keyboard shortcuts for easy movement throughout the series.

An important aspect of “The Research Clinic” is the human aspect. Each character’s story begins with some information about their life and personality, which allows you to get to know them, and to sympathize with their situation. It humanizes the researchers, and reminds the viewer that people who engage in research misconduct may not necessarily be bad people, going out of their way to tamper with evidence as they laugh manically and twist their mustache. Rather, research misconduct can occur when people are put into stressful situations and make a bad decision (or three).

The right decision may not necessarily be the easy decision, but when you’re working with human participants, taking the time to think about what you will do can make all the difference.

Cross-Cultural Survey Guidelines July 2016 Update

Are you a researcher or survey practitioner trying to design a survey for a project that incorporates multiple countries, regions, cultures, and maybe even languages and not totally sure how to get started? Were you wondering what the best practices were for such surveys, and how these practices fall within the survey life-cycle? Well, wonder no longer. Hot off the digital presses, so hot that some aspects are still in beta, Cross-Cultural Survey Guidelines is online as a book and website with many of the chapters available as PDF files. 3MC stands for multicultural, multinational, and multiregional contexts (with a secret bonus fourth MC for multilingual contexts). This site has hundreds of pages of content and pretty much everything you ever wanted to know about creating surveys for 3MC projects.
This book is the result of the Comparative Survey Design and Implementation Guidelines Initiative, featuring contributions from “70 survey research professionals from 35 organizations worldwide” and published at the Survey Research Center at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan (“Contributors”, 2016 ). Fans of previous editions will especially enjoy the new and rewritten chapters: “Study Design and Organizational Structure,” “Study Management,” “Translation: Overview,” “Adaptation,” “Data Collection: General Considerations, Face-to-Face Surveys, and Self-Administered Surveys,” “Paradata and Other Auxiliary Data,” “Statistical Analysis,” and “Ethical Considerations” (“FAQ”, 2016). Terms, including common words that have different meanings in the survey research world, are defined throughout in (slightly annoying) pop-up captions, as well as on the “Global Glossary” pages. Sources, mostly journal articles, are cited in pop-up captions in the chapter and can also be found on the “Global References” page. On the bright side, the citations are right there in the text and you can look them up on our library journal article locator, but for all the citation manager users out there, there aren’t DOIs (or, at least in the pages I looked at). The “Global References” page does include links to some of the sources. In the PDF version, the definitions and other linked text just are blue underlined words that go nowhere. Minor complaints aside, overall it is a straightforward and navigable, free online resource for those interested in creating 3MC surveys.

And of course, for more help with all things survey, Survey Research Laboratory holds office hours, by appointment and walk-in, at Scholarly Commons on Thursdays from  2-5.

Free Survey Research Methods Webinar Series!


Are you interesting in learning more about how to conduct survey research? The Survey Research Laboratory of the University of Illinois is offering four webinars on survey research methodology during the fall 2016 semester, covering a range of topics from survey sampling to conducting focus groups.  All webinars are free and will take place Wednesdays at noon. In addition to this webinar series, the Survey Research Laboratory holds consultation hours at Scholarly Commons from 2-5pm on Thursdays.

Registration is required at

Introduction to Survey Sampling, October 5

This webinar will cover the basics of sampling methodology: the importance of using proper sampling techniques, determining the appropriate sampling methodology, and calculating necessary sample sizes. The discussion also will include simple random sampling, cluster sampling, stratified sampling, and multistage samples.

Advanced Web Surveys, October 12

Online surveys are becoming an increasingly popular means of collecting data. Accordingly, there has been a growing body of research that addresses best practices for all aspects of online data collection including the various ways to recruit potential respondents, to the visual and other aspects of the online questionnaire. This webinar will cover this literature and offer recommendations for web surveys.

Conducting Focus Groups, October 19

Focus groups are often used as a means of gathering preliminary research data or to help finalize questionnaire content for a larger study. The purposes and appropriate uses of focus groups will be discussed, along with a “how to” primer on how to administer a focus group from subject recruitment through the final report.

Preventing and Detecting Interviewer Falsification, October 26

Interviewer falsification is an unfortunate reality of survey research. Falsification involves the interviewer’s intentional deviation from the study protocol, and can include fabricating all or part of an interview, or deviating from recruitment and consent protocols. This webinar will not only provide an overview of how falsification can be detected, but also how to prevent it through proper training and oversight. This webinar is useful for any investigator who is supervising research assistants to collect data, or who hires an external survey research organization to collect data.

The description of the Survey Research Methods Webinar series comes from the Survey News Bulletin, a publication of the Survey Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois.

Webinars About Survey Research

The Survey Research Laboratory on campus is offering a series of webinars on survey research this spring:

Cross-Cultural Survey Methods
Wednesday, March 16, noon

This seminar will provide an overview of the methodological challenges of conducting cross-cultural survey research and currently available techniques for establishing and/or evaluating equivalence in cross-cultural surveys.

Pros and Cons of Nonprobability Sampling
Wednesday, March 30, noon

This seminar will define nonprobability sampling and provide an overview of the most common types. It will describe the settings in which these types of samples are most appropriate and will offer an assessment of the pros and cons of using them.

Survey Question Response Scale Construction
Wednesday, April 6, noon

This webinar addresses choices and decisions that researchers make when asking survey questions with response scales such as unipolar versus bipolar scales, number of scale points, labeling of scale points, and use of a midpoint.

Fundamentals of Survey Data Set Construction
Wednesday, April 13, noon

This webinar will provide an overview of the basics of survey data set construction, including data coding, management, and editing, as well as issues such as data quality and missing data.

The webinars are free, but advance registration is required (go to to register).  Recordings of past webinars are also available at

The Survey Research Lab also partners with the Scholarly Commons to provide free consultations about survey research on Thursday afternoons from 2-5 pm.  Stop by the Scholarly Commons or contact us in advance for an appointment time.