Colleen A. McClain

3rd year PhD Student at MPSM

MS from MPSM (previously worked with SoundRocket and NORC at the University of Chicago)

Student liaison for MAPOR (Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research)

My first exposure to issues related to survey methodology came during my undergraduate studies at Michigan, where my research interests in public opinion led me to work as a research assistant to Michael Traugott on a project related to the AAPOR assessment of the 2008 primary election polls. Knowing I wanted to continue conducting research, after I finished my Bachelor’s degree I accepted an internship at ISR, was placed with Fred Conrad working on his “Interviewer Voices” project, and had the opportunity to take a class in the Summer Institute. These experiences “hooked” me to dive further into the field, and I worked for the survey consulting firm SoundRocket (then Survey Sciences Group, LLC) designing and implementing web and mobile surveys for four years before applying for the Master’s degree at MPSM.

In applying, I was most attracted by the caliber of research and the quality of the faculty. The amount of interaction you have with faculty in such a small, dynamic program cannot be overstated; and when you graduate, you too will be looked to as a methodological expert. The Master’s program in particular is a great balance between exposure to sound, academic research methods and a practical focus on survey implementation. To succeed in the PhD, creativity, initiative, and focus are key to making a methodological contribution. Along the way I have been grateful to work closely with faculty, including with Sunghee Lee on a variety of projects relating to measurement and nonresponse error, with Mick Couper analyzing web paradata in the Health & Retirement Study, and most recently with Zeina Mneimneh and Michael Traugott assessing methodological challenges in comparisons and combinations of social media and survey data. I am additionally grateful for the small, close-knit community of students and alumni as both colleagues and friends. Traveling to conferences together and spending time both in and out of the office have helped us to bond and learn from each other.

My research interests include the use of web and mobile technology in data collection, the measurement of public opinion, and cognitive and social mechanisms of survey response. As I start work on my dissertation, I am excited to contribute to a field that truly forms the cornerstone of understanding data quality across the social sciences. I am passionate about conducting research in and teaching survey methodology, and am grateful to MPSM for the opportunities it has provided.