Survey Design and Data Collection

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We understand that useful research relies on high quality data. We bring decades of methodological experience and broad substantive expertise to all parts of the data collection process. When designing evaluations and other projects, we determine how best to combine survey, administrative, and qualitative data to answer our clients’ most challenging questions. We acquire and assess administrative data to determine which questions they may inform. We design surveys to collect information, applying rigorous sampling methodologies and tailoring instruments and data collection strategies to answer our clients’ most challenging questions. We apply a full range of qualitative study methods, including focus groups, cognitive interviews, and site visits, to deepen our insight. To turn data into actionable information, we provide first-rate statistical analysis for all research projects.


Mathematica’s survey researchers direct data collection projects of all sizes and across all survey modes, working closely with our highly experienced data collection staff, including more than 400 telephone interviewers and locators and 8,000 additional field interviewers across the country. Our state-of-the-art Survey Operations Center includes experts in locating hard-to-reach respondents, using incentives effectively to secure participation, and analyzing survey paradata to adjust operations in real time and maximize response rates with high data quality and efficiency. Finally, our monitoring and security protocols ensure confidentiality of data and protection of respondents’ privacy.  


Read more about our survey design, data collection, and statistical services. 


Watch this video about our Paradata Warehouse:


Featured Work:

  • School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study. This study provides data for policymakers seeking to improve child nutrition and prevent obesity on a broad array of topics, including the food and nutrient content of school meals, the costs of school meals, the food environments in schools, and the contribution of school meals to children's overall diets. Data collection includes collection of administrative cost data; and large-scale data collection, including menu surveys, competitive foods checklists, cafeteria environment observation, plate waste observation, 24-hour dietary recalls, measurement of student’s height and weight, student/parent surveys, and interviews with school food authorities on meal costs and other topics.

  • The Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES). Since 1997, FACES has provided data on the school-readiness of Head Start children; the experiences of the children and families served by Head Start; the quality of Head Start classrooms; and the qualifications, credentials, and opinions of Head Start staff. For the 2006 and 2009 FACES cohorts, Mathematica gathered comprehensive data through direct child assessments in multiple domains, observations of Head Start classrooms, and interviews with Head Start parents, teachers, and administrators. For 2014-2018, we are launching a new FACES design that increases the efficiency of data collection, makes greater use of web and other technologies to provide key data more rapidly and with greater frequency, and helps researchers examine more complex issues and topics in greater detail.

  • Evaluation of the Impact of the YouthBuild Program.This longitudinal study is measuring the impacts of the YouthBuild program, a youth and community development program for high school dropouts that focuses on housing, education, employment, crime prevention, and leadership development. Mathematica is designing and implementing a web survey of YouthBuild grantees and three mixed-mode surveys of youth. The data collection strategy includes a mixed-mode approach that provides an incentive for youth to respond via the web, and includes telephone and field follow-up as part of our nonresponse strategy. The study incorporates an adaptive design and innovative sample outreach and retention strategies including the use of social media and texting as age-appropriate communication channels.