Leland J. and Dorothy H. Olson Professor,  Director of the Bureau of Sociological Research Profile Image
Leland J. and Dorothy H. Olson Professor, Director of the Bureau of Sociological Research Sociology kolson5@unl.edu 703 Oldfather Hall

Curriculum Vitae

Google Scholar


Twitter: @olson_km

Current Research

My research focuses on survey methods, with a particular focus on why measurement, nonresponse, and coverage errors occur in surveys, as well as survey costs. Survey methods are one set of techniques in a larger group of quantitative methods. I am particularly interested in the interaction between interviewer and respondent, and what we can learn from paradata (keystroke files, response timing data, and call records), behavior codes, and survey data about the quality of interviewer-administered surveys. I am the lead editor on 2020 book containing papers from a recent workshop held at UNL on interviewer effects. I am also interested in how question, visual design, and mode and device decisions affect the quality of answers to survey questions. I recently chaired a Task Force for AAPOR on surveys that transition from interviewer-administered to self-administered or mixed mode surveys. My recent research on coverage errors has examined a variety of methods for selecting a respondent within a household in self-administered surveys, including methods to improve this selection. For nonresponse, I examine issues related to why people don’t participate in surveys, and what we can do through survey design features and statistical fixes to address nonresponse. My research on survey costs identifies the need for consistent cost measurements.

Dr. Jolene Smyth (also in the Sociology department) and I work collaboratively on a number of projects related to surveys. We field experiments and study properties of survey questions observationally. I also work collaboratively with a wide range of researchers at Nebraska and other institutions.

Student Opportunities

I am seeking graduate students who are interested in developing new methods and contributing to a theory-driven understanding of a wide variety of areas of survey methodology. These graduate students may find themselves more interested in seeking an applied survey research job after graduation than a faculty job (although academic job seekers are welcome, too!).

I am also seeking undergraduate students interested in understanding more about the interactions between interviewers and respondents and questionnaire design for UCARE or USTAR opportunities.

Current Teaching

I have taught the introduction to regression class for graduate students (SOCI 862). I also teach a range of courses on survey methodology, including Applied Survey Sampling, Analysis of Complex Survey Data, and Total Survey Error.

Selected Recent Publications

Olson, Kristen, Jolene D. Smyth, Jennifer Dykema, Allyson Holbrook, Frauke Kreuter, and Brady T. West. 2020. Interviewer Effects from a Total Survey Error Perspective. Boca Raton: CRC Press.


Olson, Kristen, Jolene D. Smyth, Rachel Horwitz, Scott Keeter, Virginia Lesser, Stephanie Marken, Nancy Mathiowetz, Jaki McCarthy, Eileen O’Brien, Jean Opsomer, Darby Steiger, David Sterrett, Jennifer Su, Z. Tuba Suzer-Gurtekin, Chintan Turakhia, James Wagner. 2020. “Transitions From Telephone Surveys to Self-Administered and Mixed-Mode Surveys: AAPOR Task Force Report.” Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology. https://doi.org/10.1093/jssam/smz062


Olson, Kristen, Jolene Smyth, and Antje Kirchner. 2020. The effect of question characteristics on question reading behaviors in telephone surveys. Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology. 8(4): 636–666. https://doi.org/10.1093/jssam/smz031


Smyth, Jolene and Kristen Olson. 2020. “How Well Do Interviewers Record Responses to Numeric, Interviewer Field-Code, and Open-Ended Narrative Questions in Telephone Surveys?” Field Methods. 32(1): 89-104. Advance Access December 2019. https://doi.org/10.1177/1525822X19888707


 Kristen Olson, Jolene Smyth, and Beth Cochran*. 2018. “Item Location, the Interviewer-Respondent Interaction, and Responses to Battery Questions in Telephone Surveys.” Sociological Methodology. 48(1): 225-268. https://doi.org/10.1177/0081175018778299

Timbrook, Jerry*, Kristen Olson and Jolene Smyth. 2018. “Why do Cell Phone Interviews Last Longer? A Behavior Coding Perspective.” Public Opinion Quarterly. 82(3): 553-582. https://doi.org/10.1093/poq/nfy022

* indicates graduate student co-author

Recent Grant Activity

2018-2020       Co-Principal Investigator, Interviewer Effects Workshop: Rensis Likert Fund for Research in Survey Methodology: Application for Funding to Support Survey Operations Management Staff at a Workshop on Survey Interviewer Effects Research. University of Michigan Rensis Likert Fund for Research in Survey Methodology. Total Costs: $8,610.

2018-2019       Co-Principal Investigator, Interviewer Effects Workshop: Cannell Fund for Junior Researcher Support. University of Michigan Cannell Fund for Survey Methodology. Total Costs: $10,190.

2018-2020       Principal Investigator, Conference: Interviewers and Their Effects from a Total Survey Error Perspective. National Science Foundation SES-1758834. Awarded April 2018. Total costs: $95,942.

2017-2021       Co-Principal Investigator, Reconfiguring Farmers Behavior to Reduce Irrigation Water Use through Water Measurements and Social Norms Interventions: A Case Study In The Republican River Basin, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)/Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)/ Water for Agriculture. Christopher Neale (PI). May 2017-April 2021. Total costs: $453,539.

Other Information

I am Editor-in-Chief for the Survey Methodology side of the Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology. I am a fellow of the American Statistical Association. I am also the 2020 Conference Chair for the American Association for Public Opinion Research, a former Membership and Chapter Relations Chair for the American Association for Public Opinion Research, and a Past-President for the Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research.

Ph.D. University of Michigan

Areas of Specialization:

  • Quantitative Methods
  • Survey Methodology
  • Nonresponse Error
  • Measurement Error
  • Coverage Error
  • Interviewer Effects