I have two somewhat distinctive research areas: survey methodology and gender. My primary area of research is survey methodology. I believe strongly in the importance of high quality data to improve science and policy. The methodology research questions I pursue are largely shaped by changes occurring in the survey industry that raise important questions about data quality. These include shifts from single to mixed-mode surveys and from interviewer-administered to self-administered modes. My projects are also concerned with the increasing use of varied devices for answering surveys, especially mobile web surveys. These changes provide the starting point for my current lines of research, which include questionnaire design (especially visual design), mixed-mode and mixed-device surveys, within-household selection, survey recruitment, and interviewer/respondent interactions in telephone surveys. I use many methods in my research, including experimentation, eye tracking, cognitive interviews, and behavior coding.
My secondary area of research is in the sociology of gender. Here I am concerned with how gender is produced and its consequences at the individual level. This work is grounded in the “doing gender” perspective, originally proposed by West and Zimmerman. A large body of research drawing on this perspective has shown how we establish and reinforce gender through the division of domestic and paid work, through gendered bodily displays (i.e., dress, makeup, etc.), and by maintaining a separation between the home and the workplace. However, my research differs from previous research in this area in that I examine gender in a setting where these typical strategies of doing gender are challenged—the family farm. Broadly speaking, I pose the question, how do we “do gender” when the work we do challenges our achievement of gender?
My two research foci come together in a final interest, which is how gender can be better measured in survey research in order to yield a more nuanced understanding within the constraints of survey questionnaires where space is often limited. I am concerned that much of survey research reduces gender down to the male/female binary and in doing so limits our ability to truly understand people’s lived experiences. So I am interested in how we can be doing better in this regard.
I am seeking students who are interested in furthering our understanding of and improving research methods or who want to study gender and who are looking to learn and develop their own research skills and expertise. The type of research I do is useful for students who are seeking either academic or applied positions.
I am open to advising undergraduate honor’s theses as well as UCARE (Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experience) and USTAR (Undergraduate Sociology Teaching and Research) research projects.
I teach Gender in Contemporary Society (SOCI 200) and special topics graduate seminars in Data Collection Methods and Survey Questionnaire Design.
Dillman, Don A., Jolene D. Smyth, and Leah Melani Christian. 2014. Internet, Phone, Mail, and Mixed-Mode Surveys: The Tailored Design Method. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Find it here on amazon.
Smyth, Jolene D. and Kristen Olson. 2018 “The Effects of Mismatches between Survey Question Stems and Response Options on Data Quality and Responses.” Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology. https://doi.org/10.1093/jssam/smy005.
Smyth, Jolene D., Alexis Swendener,* and Emily Kazyak. 2018. “Women’s Work? The Relationship between Farm Work and Gender Self-Perception” Rural Sociology. 83(3): 654-676. https://doi.org/10.1111/ruso.12207.
Olson, Kristen, Amanda Ganshert,* and Jolene D. Smyth. 2018. “The Effects of Respondent and Question Characteristics on Respondent Answering Behaviors in Telephone Interviews” Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology. https://doi.org/10.1093/jssam/smy006.
Stange, Mathew,* Jolene D. Smyth, and Kristen Olson. 2016. “Using a Calendar and Explanatory Instructions to Aid Within-Household Selection in Mail Surveys.” Field Methods. 28(1):64-78. https://doi.org/10.1177/1525822X15604825
* indicates graduate student co-author
Recent Grant activity
2018-2020 Co-Principal Investigator. Conference: Interviewers and Their Effects from a Total Survey Error Perspective. Kristen Olson (PI). National Science Foundation, SES-1758834. Awarded May 2018. (Total Costs: $90,000).
2015-2020 Principal Investigator. USDA-NASS 58-3AEU-5-0023; (with Dr. Kristen Olson). Using Statistical and Survey Methodology Research to Improve or Redesign Surveys Related to Science and Engineering. Co-funded by the National Science Foundation National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Awarded April 2015. (Total costs: $460,000).
2016-2017 Co-Principal Investigator. Reducing Error in Computer Survey Data Collection – Supplement. NSF Census Research Network. Kristen Olson (PI). National Science Foundation NCRN-MN supplement, SES-1132015. Awarded September 2016. (Total Costs: $517,178).
2011-2017 Co-Principal Investigator. Reduing Error in Computer Survey Data Collection, NSF Census Research Network. Kristen Olson (PI). National Science Foundation, NCRN-MN proposal, SES-1132015. Awarded October 2011. (Total Costs: $2,967,347)
I also serve as the Faculty Director for the Bureau of Sociological Research, which is a survey data collection center serving all of UNL as well as local and state clients. I am an affiliated faculty member with the Women’s and Gender Studies program at UNL and I serve on the UNL IRB. Outside UNL, I am an active member of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research, and the Association of Academic Survey Research Organizations, where I hold a variety of voluntary and elected positions.