Our Services 

Our philosophy is to design and conduct studies that are customized to the needs of each individual client. Our project managers have extensive experience helping organizations evaluate needs, define research goals, and design effective research strategies. We provide survey research, qualitative research, data entry and verification, transcription, and statistical analysis and reporting services.

A full range of data collection methods are available, including telephone, web, and mail surveys, in-person or telephone depth interviews, and focus groups. Data analysis can simple, such as providing a frequency report of respondents' answers to questions. Or we can create detailed cross tabulations that illustrate the relationships between respondents' answers and multiple variables, such as age, income level, or geographic location.

Whether your project is large or small, whether you need us to design and conduct research from beginning to end, or whether you simply need help analyzing existing data, we have the expertise to help you meet your goals.

 
  • Questionnaire and Sample Design

    The first phase of the survey research process is the creation of a valid and reliable survey instrument. Our project management team is well versed on the best practices of questionnaire design, and we pay careful attention to all the elements of the survey: topics and content, length and format, and question wording and order. By collaborating closely with our clients to clearly identify and define study objectives, we create surveys with relevant questions and understandable response categories. Before a survey goes into the field, we conduct numerous pre-tests of the survey instrument, to eliminate potential problems with question wording and sequence, awkward terminology, or confusing response categories. This testing allows for necessary changes and ensures that we collect high-quality data. Whether you are starting from scratch, or have an existing survey that needs some fine-tuning, we have the knowledge and expertise to facilitate this phase of your research project.

    The second phase of a survey involves sample design. Once we know your project's goals and budget, we can help you choose the best population-or sample-to survey. By choosing a sample that appropriately represents the population you want to study, we can enhance the reliability and validity of the survey data. Currently, we use the following sampling and screening methods, choosing the ones that will best meet the survey's goals.

    Random Digit Dialing
    For this sampling technique, a computer program generates a list of telephone numbers from known area codes and prefixes. Using the existing exchanges, the program randomly creates the final four digits to be dialed. This is the most efficient means of sampling households, and provides for an equal and known probability of selection for all residential telephone numbers in the area selected for study. Random digit dialing has been used by survey researchers for many years, and has proven an extremely reliable sampling methodology, producing results that accurately reflect true population values.

    Address-Based Sampling
    For this method, a random sample of households in the area to be surveyed is created using the U.S. Postal Service's Delivery Sequence File (DSF). Because the DSF includes more than 95% of households, this provides a way of reaching residents whether they have a landline telephone or not. Using the DSF, known household addresses are matched to telephone numbers where possible, and households with a matched telephone number are mailed a postcard informing them that an interviewer will be calling. Households without a matching telephone number are sent a packet of materials, sometimes including a small monetary incentive, asking them to contact the Center for Opinion Research to participate in the survey.

    List Sampling
    If the population to be surveyed is very specific, then a client will provide us a list of names with addresses, phone numbers, and/or email addresses. Using this list, we will either develop a random sample or attempt to reach all the people on the list, depending on the goals of the survey. List samples are useful for reaching defined groups such as members of an organization, registered voters, recent patients of a hospital, parents and guardians of public school students, or recent graduates of a university. List samples are also used for recruiting participants for other kinds of studies, such as focus groups or depth interviews.

    Second-Stage Sampling
    For telephone surveys, further screening techniques, or second stage sampling methodologies, are used to eliminate biases that might arise from simply interviewing the person who answers the telephone. These include the Last and Next Birthday Methods, where an interviewer asks to speak with the adult living in the household who most recently celebrated, or will next be celebrating, a birthday, and specific screeners, such as asking to speak with the person in the household who makes the healthcare decisions or who is the parent or guardian of a school-aged child living in the home. Using these secondary screening techniques greatly enhances the validity of survey data.

     

  • Data Collection

    Once a questionnaire, sampling frame, and sampling methodologies and screeners are finalized, we can begin data collection for your survey. As with questionnaire design and sampling, the method used for collecting data is driven by your research goals and budget. Our project managers and interviewers are experienced in a variety of scientifically valid data collection techniques, including telephone interviews, mail surveys, web surveys, and in-person and depth interviews. We also assist organizations who wish to self-administer a survey. Some complex research studies require more than one data collection method; for example, a telephone survey for which some respondents are chosen to participate in a web survey or depth interview.

    Telephone Interviews
    Many of our surveys are conducted by telephone, as this has proven to be a highly effective and cost-efficient method of reaching most populations. These surveys are administered using a computer-assisted telephone interviewing system (CATI). Currently, we use a CATI program called CASES, which was developed at the University of California, Berkley. Berkley was supported in the creation of CASES by cooperative agreements with the U.S. Bureau of the Census and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the program is used by these and other federal agencies in their ongoing data collection projects. The CASES software has been customized by our project and data managers to perform a variety of project management and reporting activities and is a powerful tool for the collection of survey data. The software's capabilities include online call monitoring and case management; automatic call scheduling; data coding, cleaning, and verification procedures; questionnaire debugging and tracing capabilities, and interviewer performance reporting.

    Our project managers and field staff of approximately 50 interviewers have extensive experience conducting CATI surveys, and the progress and quality of completed surveys is closely monitored by our call center supervisors and project managers. All interviewers have had formal training related to interviewing procedures, reducing refusals, and administering questionnaires using the CATI system. The interviewer training course includes role-playing and feedback in addition to instruction on the technical methodology of interviewing. In addition, each interviewer is trained specifically on each new study's questionnaire, and will practice with the questionnaire in the training mode of the CATI system before beginning actual phone calls. Moreover, our monitoring protocol provides constant feedback to interviewers regarding their performance, and is itself used as an ongoing training opportunity. We also have the capability of conducting Spanish-language surveys; a number of our interviewers are bilingual, and can conduct interviews in either Spanish or English, depending on need.

    In-Person Interviews
    Because some populations cannot be reached easily by telephone, we also conduct interviews in-person. Questionnaires for these interviews are similar to those used for telephone surveys, and are similarly tested before being used in the field. Usually, we conduct in-person interviews using a computer-assisted personal interviewing system, or CAPI, although depending on need, interviewers may use paper surveys, and enter the data later into the CAPI system. We use our most experienced interviewers for in-person interviews, and provide additional training specific to the requirements of these more personal encounters. Recent in-person surveys have included a survey of visitors to the Strasburg Railroad, research into pregnancy outcomes among the Amish population of Lancaster County, and crime and quality of life surveys conducted door-to-door in several Lancaster City neighborhoods.

    Depth Interviews
    Certain research projects require a more detailed and thorough exploration of issues and concerns than is possible in a short interview. In these cases, depth interviews-individual interviews conducted with a small number of participants, either in-person or on the phone-are a very effective way of eliciting comprehensive data and exploring respondents' experiences, perspectives, and expectations. During a depth-interview, we ask open-ended questions to elicit thoughtful responses, and engage respondents in discussion. Depth interviews are often used to provide context to other data, offering a more complete picture of the reasons for a previous study's outcomes. As with in-person interviews, we use our most experienced interviewers for depth interviews, and provide the necessary additional training. Recently, we have conducted depth interviews with the employees of a local hospital's outpatient center, to discuss how to improve the patient experience, and with donors to a large non-profit organization, to explore why they give, and how others might be persuaded to increase their philanthropy.

    Web Surveys
    Web Surveys are becoming increasingly common, and can be a very low-cost, highly effective way to reach known populations. They are particularly valuable when the target population includes primarily internet users. We are able to conduct several different kinds of web surveys, always adhering to scientific methodology for both sampling and questionnaire design, so as to obtain valid and reliable results. Intercept surveys poll every nth visitor to a web site, and are particularly useful for customer satisfaction surveys; recently, we polled visitors to Franklin & Marshall's website to determine whether users found the new design attractive and were able to easily find the information they sought. Other surveys request respondents' participation via email. For example, we have found that employee satisfaction surveys have higher response rates when all employees are sent an email asking for their participation, and respondents can choose when to complete the survey. Web surveys are often combined with other surveys, such as a recent telephone survey asking respondents their opinions about a proposed new streetcar system in downtown Lancaster. Randomly chosen respondents to the telephone survey were asked to complete a second survey online, which showed pictures, maps, and other images and asked additional questions about preferences for streetcar routes and design.

    Mail Surveys
    Mail Surveys are often preferred for named surveys in which the sample population is known, such as employees or members of a professional organization, who may need flexibility in choosing when to complete the survey. These surveys are also relatively inexpensive, and can be helpful when many open-ended questions are asked. Generally, we perform multiple mailings for each survey, to increase response rates.

    Sometimes, instead of mailing a survey, an organization may find that it is easier to reach its target population by handing out paper questionnaires. This is particularly true of small groups who need data on program effectiveness, or whose members do not necessarily have landline telephones or internet access. For example, each year we help Lancaster's Fulton Theatre evaluate its Youtheatre program. Each participant completes a questionnaire before beginning the program, and again after the program is over. Because theatre staff members hand out the questionnaires, they can ensure that all participants complete one.

     

  • Focus Groups

    Focus groups are a valuable method of studying a population's attitudes and opinions in-depth. This is a form of qualitative research, and may be used alone, or along with a quantitative survey, such as a telephone or web survey. During a focus group, a moderator asks open-ended questions that are discussed by all participants. Small groups are best; generally, a focus group will have between 10 and 12 participants. We can help with all areas of your focus group project, from design and recruitment through analysis. A focus group can be held at our location, or we can come to a location that is closer to where your participants reside, if necessary. Our state-of-the-art focus group facility is also available for rent, should you simply need a specially designed space for holding your already planned group.

    Design and Recruitment
    Our project managers are experienced in helping clients design effective focus groups; as with our quantitative surveys, we work closely with you, helping to identify your needs and questions. For focus group recruitment, we use specially trained interviewers who are experienced in this important skill. Participants are usually recruited by telephone and are screened for appropriateness using a short questionnaire.

    Moderating and Observing
    Our director and project managers are also highly experienced focus group moderators. Using a well-designed moderator's guide, they can lead and direct discussion to create an atmosphere where issues are discussed in-depth. You are able to monitor the group from our client observation room which has a two-way mirror. The session will also be recorded using either audio or dvd. We will then transcribe the session and analyze the results.

    Facility Rental
    Our new focus group facility was specifically designed to provide a comfortable, professional setting for conducting successful focus groups. The focus group room is fully computerized and has complete audio-visual resources, including cameras, large wall-mounted monitor, and both audio and dvd recording capability. Other amenities include executive seating for up to 12 participants, telephone/modem and wireless computer connections, and built-in white board. The adjacent client observation area has a one-way mirror, wall monitor, and telephone and wireless computer connections. A lounge area and kitchen are also available for staff and client use. We are happy to discuss rental rates and arrangements with you. Please contact our director, Berwood Yost; click here to be directed to our contact information page.

     

  • Program and Grant Evaluation

    Survey research is a very useful tool for evaluating program performance. A good evaluation will help determine whether services are deployed well and are doing what they are intended to do, and whether there are any gaps in services. A data-driven program evaluation is particularly useful for informing grantors and funding agencies that their money is being well spent. Generally, there are three different kinds of program evaluations that we consider when developing an evaluation plan for your organization:

    Needs Evaluations
    Needs Evaluations are conducted prior to a program being funded or implemented, and identify and measure unmet needs within an organization or community. Results are typically included in a grant proposal to demonstrate need.

    Process Evaluations
    Process Evaluations document how a program has been delivered, who is being served, and whether a program is operating as expected. Usually, process evaluations try to answer questions about a program's efforts, operations, and services without making direct statements about program impacts. This information is often provided to grantors in a final report.

    Impact Evaluations
    Impact Evaluations determine the direct effects of a program on users. They determine whether a program has achieved its goals and produced desired changes. Results are included with reports to grantors or funding agencies, to demonstrate success; or, where results are not what were desired, the impact evaluation can help show why.

    As with all our research, we work closely with you to develop an evaluation plan, beginning with assessing your program's goals and desired outcomes. We then determine appropriate evaluation questions and data sources. Often, we can use your existing data. If necessary, we will gather new data; many evaluations make use of both existing and new data.

     

  • Data Analysis, Reports and Presentations

    Once all data are gathered, we perform a comprehensive analysis of findings in order to answer your project's research questions. Most often, we analyze data that we have collected. Sometimes, however, organizations approach us to help them understand data that they have collected themselves. For much of our analysis, we use a software program called the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS).

    During the data analysis phase, we will consult with you to ensure that analysis questions are answered in a clear and comprehensive manner. We can break down your data in a number of different ways, depending on your needs. The analysis can be as simple as providing a short report of respondents' answers to questions or as complex as breaking down the data by multiple variables, such as age, income level, or geographic location.

    Reports and presentations can also be simple or complex, depending on your organization's needs. We commonly present findings to groups, and can create presentations, written summaries, and other materials as necessary. We are also well-equipped to assist you in presenting results to the public at large. Our project management team has an abundance of experience in handling press releases, reporter inquiries and public concerns regarding high stakes and high visibility research projects.

     

  • Education and Outreach

    Education and Outreach

    Classes and Seminars
    Our director, Berwood Yost, regularly teaches courses on survey research methodology and public policy. With Kirk Miller (biology), Alison Kibler (American studies and women and gender studies) and Sean Flaherty (economics), Mr. Yost also teaches a highly praised multidisciplinary course based on our research into pregnancy outcomes among Amish women in Lancaster County. Called Public Health Research: Pregnancy Outcomes in American Women, the class looks at the data from the Amish study and other surveys, and analyzes and discusses the data from many different perspectives.

    Student Opportunities
    Students participate in the work of the Center in a variety of ways. Student interns assist with data analysis, reporting, and other projects. Students regularly participate in our surveys and focus groups that seek information about student life, career possibilities, drug and alcohol use on campus, and other issues. We have also employed students as both telephone interviewers and call center supervisors. For more information about student employment and internships, please contact office administrator Julia Haigh; click here to be directed to our contact information.

    Community Involvement
    As part of Franklin & Marshall, we share the college's mission to "deepen and enrich the College's ties to the City of Lancaster." Our research has helped many different groups work toward positive change and growth in areas such as crime reduction, community services, recreation, community health, the arts, education, and local government. We have worked extensively with many organizations, including the Lancaster City Police, the Lancaster Community Safely Coalition, the School District of Lancaster, Lancaster General Hospital, the East King Street Improvement District, the Lancaster Alliance, LancasterARTS, Lancaster Family YMCA, and the North Museum, to name a few.

     

  • Standards and Ethics

    The Center for Opinion Research adheres to the standards and ethics for the best practices of our profession as expressed in the American Association of Public Opinion Research Code of Professional Ethics and Practice.

    We guarantee the highest standards of scientific integrity in conducting research, collecting and analyzing data, and reporting results. Further, our ethics demand open and honest relationships with both our clients and the general public.

    We will refuse any project or research that would require us to violate our standards in any way.

    Please click here to view AAPOR's Code of Professional Ethics and Practice.           

     

Our Work

Results of the Latest Poll and Other Analyses

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The Center's work on politics, public policy, and healthcare is often featured in the news. Poll results have appeared in media outlets like USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and more.  

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Contact Us

Mailing Address
Center for Opinion Research
Floyd Institute for Public Policy
Franklin & Marshall College
P.O. Box 3003
Lancaster, PA 17604

 

Phone/Fax

(717) 358-4401 (Office Administrator/General Information)

(866) 366-7655 (Toll-Free Call Center)

(717) 358-4632 (Local Call Center)

(717) 358-4666 (Fax)

 

Email: cor@fandm.edu

Operating Hours
Monday - Friday, 9 am - 9 pm
Saturday, 11 am - 3 pm
Sunday, 3 pm - 7 pm

 
To get to the F&M Campus:

From Route 30, take the Harrisburg Pike exit. 

Get on to Harrisburg Pike toward Lancaster. Stay on this road for about two miles. After you pass the Turkey Hill Minute Market on the right, take the next right into the Williamson parking lot—you will be just across from Iron Hill Brewery on the left. Drive into the lot and look for a spot reserved for the Center for Opinion Research.

To get to the Harris Center, once you are on campus

Please use this map to help you navigate the F&M Campus. Both the Harris Center and parking areas are clearly marked.

It is easiest to park in the Williamson Lot (Lot H).

Walk to the left of the Science Library (building 47). Follow this sidewalk to the top the small hill. You will see the Harris Center (building 24) right in front of you.

Use the entrance with the stairs and the ramp to enter the building. When you walk into the building, you can take the elevator to the 3rd floor by going through the door for the 1st floor (straight ahead) and making a left.

The elevator will also be on you left. You could also take the stairs to the 3rd floor, which are to your left as soon as you enter the building. (There will be directional signs posted).

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Our Office Location

The Center for Opinion Research office is located on the third floor of Patricia E. Harris Center for Business, Government & Public Policy (building 37)  

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About Us

The Center for Opinion Research is widely recognized as one of the nation’s foremost survey research organizations. We design innovative and thoughtful research solutions to help our clients answer important questions and make strategic decisions.

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