Leland J. and Dorothy H. Olson Professor and Vice Chair Profile Image
Leland J. and Dorothy H. Olson Professor and Vice Chair Sociology kolson5@unl.edu (402) 472-6057 703 Oldfather Hall

Curriculum Vitae

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Current Research

My research focuses on survey methods, with a particular focus on why nonresponse, measurement and coverage errors occur in surveys. Survey methods is one set of techniques in a larger group of quantitative methods. 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. In examining measurement errors, 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) versus behavior codes. I recently organized a workshop at the university on this topic, and am the lead editor on a forthcoming book containing papers from this workshop. Related to coverage error, my recent research has examined a variety of methods for selecting a respondent within a household in self-administered surveys.

Dr. Jolene Smyth (also in the Sociology department) and I investigating how people answer survey questions in self-administered surveys, with a new focus on design for mobile devices. I also work collaboratively with a wide range of researchers at Nebraska and other institutions on issues related to new technologies.

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 opportunities.

Current Teaching

 I teach the introduction to regression class for graduate students (SOCI462/862), as well as the introductory statistics course for undergraduates (SOCI206). I teach a range of courses on survey methodology, including Analysis of Complex Survey Data and Total Survey Error.

Selected Recent Publications

Stange, Mathew*, Jolene Smyth and Kristen Olson. 2019. “Drawing on LGB Identity to Encourage Participation and Disclosure of Sexual Orientation in Surveys.”  The Sociological Quarterly. 60(1): 168-188.  https://doi.org/10.1080/00380253.2018.1526055  

 Smyth, Jolene D. and Kristen Olson. 2019. "The Effects of Mismatches between Survey Question Stems and Response Options on Data Quality and Responses." Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology. 7(1): 34-65. https://doi.org/10.1093/jssam/smy005  

 Olson, Kristen, Jolene Smyth, and Amanda Ganshert*. 2019. “The effects of respondent and question characteristics on respondent answering behaviors in telephone interviewsJournal of Survey Statistics and Methodology. 7(2): 275-308.   https://doi.org/10.1093/jssam/smy006 

 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

Kristen Olson, Megumi Watanabe*, and Jolene D. Smyth. 2018. "A Comparison of Full and Quasi-filters for Autobiographical Questions." Field Methods. 30(4): 371-385. https://doi.org/10.1177/1525822X18795868

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

Olson, Kristen and Jolene D. Smyth. 2017. Within-Household Selection in Mail Surveys: Explicit Questions are Better than Cover Letter Instructions. Public Opinion Quarterly. 81(3): 688-713. https://doi.org/10.1093/poq/nfx025

* indicates graduate student co-author

Recent Grant Activity

2018-2019       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. Lameck Odhiambo (PI). May 2017-April 2021. Total costs: $453,539.

2016-2018       Principal Investigator, Reducing Error in Computer Survey Data Collection - Supplement. NSF Census Research Network. National Science Foundation NCRN-MN supplement, SES-1132015. Awarded September 2016. Total Costs: $517,178.

Other Information

I am a fellow of the American Statistical Association. I am also a former Membership and Chapter Relations Chair for the American Association for Public Opinion Research, a Past-President for the Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research. I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Official Statistics, Associate Editor for the Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology,  and on the Editorial Board for Sociological Methodology and The Sociological Quarterly.

Ph.D. University of Michigan

Areas of Specialization:

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