Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1997


Centre for Applied Social Surveys (CASS)

The Centre for Applied Social Surveys (CASS) is a Resource Centre of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) which has been set up jointly by Social and Community Planning Research (SCPR) and the University of Southampton, with the University of Surrey. CASS's main current activities are developing the Question Bank and developing and teaching short courses in survey methods. CASS aims to strengthen skills in survey design and analysis in the UK social science research community.

Main Contact Points

Roger Thomas is the Director of CASS and he also directs the Survey Methods Centre at SCPR. Professor Chris Skinner is the Deputy Director of CASS, with responsibility for the management of courses. He is Professor of Social statistics at the University of Southampton, and is Director of the Centre for Survey Data Analysis. Professor Martin Bulmer is the Academic Director of the Question Bank. He is Professor of Sociology at the University of Surrey. Teresa McGarry is a researcher at SCPR and works on the Question Bank. Zoe Matthew's is a lecturer in the Department of Social Statistics at the University of Southampton and is responsible for the development of CASS courses. Many members of SCPR and Southampton's Department of Social Statistics contribute to course teaching.

The two main activities of CASS are The Question Bank and the CASS course programme. Both activities can be accessed via CASS's Web site at The Question Bank is a wholly electronic research resource available over the World Wide Web, for which an internet connection and web browser are required.

A. The Cass Question Bank

The Question Bank and the Electronic Revolution

The Question Bank uses the electronic medium of the Web as its central and only medium of making social survey research resources available to social scientists and social researchers. Like Sociological Research Online, it only has an electronic form and does not have a paper or CD-ROM equivalent. Like the journal, it also seeks to extend the frontiers of electonic publishing and to harness the power of the Web for social science research. The WWW defies generalization but it is probably true to say that a very large proportion of sites on the web are either using the Web as an elaborate noticeboard to convey information, as a point of sale for a commercial product, including product information, as a direct means of access to other, off-line, material, or as a means of entertainment and/or personal expression. The Question Bank seeks to provide electronically an in-depth reference source analogous in some respects to an encyclopaedia or scholarly archive, with the convenience that follows from bringing together widely disparate materials in one place, systematically organizing them, and making them accessible from a desktop workstation to a wide variety of users.

For those used to printed media, this is likely to be a new experience. The reader does not have a bound volume to browse through, but a set of materials in multidimensional cyberspace, often linked from one part to another, which has no obvious beginning and end. The Question Bank also exploits the latest technology to make material available. Most of the survey questionnaires are scanned and held in Portable Document Format (pdf) form, which enables us to represent the layout of the documents which we wish to represent. This requires for many users the once-only downloading of the Adobe Acrobat Reader, but it gives much greater flexibility in presenting our material.

Aims of the CASS Question Bank

The Question Bank has three main aims, which are closely linked. These are:

The Question Bank aims to be useful to survey designers, survey users and secondary analysts of data from the surveys and in the topic areas which it covers. All have a common interest in understanding how survey data are created and shaped through the definition of concepts and terms and the wording, layout and administration of survey questions and response categories.

In terms of text, the bulk of the information currently stored in the Question Bank consists of questionnaires from the following surveys:

All but the last two are continuous; the last two are repeated peridoically. Very shortly we aim to include other continuous surveys within the Question Bank such as the Family Resources Survey and the National Travel Survey. This material can all be located via menus on screen and downloaded as required.

Information can be retrieved from the Question Bank in three main ways. These include:

The search engine currently allows users to search only on 'html' files. However, in the next few months, we will have a search engine in place which will also enable searches on Portable Document Format (pdf) files, which is the format that the questionnaires are stored in. This 'pdf' format was chosen because:

  1. it allows the questionnaires to retain faithfully their original layout and
  2. it permits the text within questionnaires to be saved as text, which is potentially searchable, rather than as a bitmap, which is not.

Users can now access the questionnaires from the Home Page menu, selecting the survey, year and particular questionnaire they are interested in viewing. To view questionnaires they will need to have the Adobe Acrobat Reader installed. We have included instructions within the Question Bank which illustrates for users how this is done.

The final search option for users is via the topic menu. There are currently 21 topics, which include Economic Activity, Ethnicity and Race, Household Definition and Structure, and Housing and Household Amenities. Users select a topic that they are interested in and from this choice they are presented with a further menu listing information options, enabling them to explore the topic area in detail. This information will also include links to relevant questionnaires so that users can see how such topics areas have been dealt with.

Queries and Further Information about the Question Bank

The CASS Question Bank is, and will continue to be, an evolving and expanding resource. To ensure that the Question Bank meets the needs of its users we would appreciate feedback especially with regards to additional surveys which users would like included. All comments and suggestions should be addressed to Teresa McGarry.

Tel: 0171 250 1866
fax : 0171 250 1524

Postal Address: 35, Northampton Square, London. EC1V OAX

B. The Cass Courses Programme

Aims of CASS Courses

CASS offers a programme of short courses on social survey methods, covering all aspects of the quantitative survey process from design to data collection and data analysis. The courses have an applied emphasis, aimed at providing guidance for researchers who face practical decision-making in surveys, such as how to design and draw samples, how to design different types of questionnaire and questions for different purposes, and how to analyse survey data. Numbers on most courses are restricted to about 20 so that participants may share their experiences of survey reseach with other participants and course presenters. There is a strong emphasis on workshops and group participation. Participants come from academic, and also government, commercial and independent research backgrounds. They include PhD and MSc students, but there are also significant numbers who are engaged in substantive survey work.

Course Programme 1996/97

Queries and further Information about CASS Courses

Information about any of the courses mentioned above can be obtained from Rebecca Bundock.

Tel: (44) 1703-593-048
fax : (44) 1703-593-048

Postal Address: Department of Social Statistics, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO17 1BJ.

Teresa McGarry, Roger Thomas and Martin Bulmer

Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1997