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Development Research Methods: Surveys and Experiments

Module description

This module will explore the latest tools for designing, running and analysing randomised field experiments or survey-based projects and impact evaluations that are now a central part of the development economics toolkit.

The content of this module will be suitable for research-oriented students, and for those who are interested in work with development organizations or other fields where evaluating social programs is important. This content is recommended for interdisciplinary pathways and will be of use to all students with the necessary econometric tools who are interested in running field experiments and designing or analysing survey-based projects. The examples in this course will be drawn from Development Economics, but the content will be applicable to other fields of empirical microeconomics.

This module will require one module of econometrics (one of: BEEM011, BEEM102, BEEM113, BEEM139) in order to understand the empirical methods used in this module, and to understand the challenges our tools are designed to overcome.

Full module specification

Module title:Development Research Methods: Surveys and Experiments
Module code:BEEM160
Module level:M
Academic year:2023/4
Module lecturers:
  • Mr Julian Dyer - Convenor
Module credit:15
ECTS value:



One of: BEEM011, BEEM102, BEEM113, BEEM139



Duration of module: Duration (weeks) - term 2:


Module aims

The intention of this module is to provide students with the fundamental tools used in field experiments and survey design, as well as econometric tools for analysis of survey data and experimental results. You will learn the theory behind these tools as well as how to apply these tools in practice.

We will then cover examples of recent papers and use these to learn about ways of measuring different types of outcomes, as well how surveys and field projects can be combined with economic theory to answer questions rigorously and in a generalizable way. This will be enriched by looking at the cutting-edge tools being used in recent economics papers. Students may have covered these papers in other modules on development economics, but here we will be focusing not on what the researchers found, but on how they found it. We will focus on the design of these research project and the way key outcomes were measured to build your research toolkit. This will include experimental and non-experimental papers.

This module will provide students with an opportunity to explore their own interests by designing a potential research project as their major piece of coursework. This will be an opportunity for students to enrich their learning by engaging with their own creative research ideas. A written exam will be used to assess mastery of the fundamentals. Students will also prepare a brief presentation for tutorial where they will critically evaluate the methodology used in an academic journal article.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Explain how key outcomes were measured in seminal and cutting-edge papers in different fields
  • 2. Evaluate the design of experimental interventions to answer a research question.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Apply the key methods and core concepts of sampling design and survey design
  • 4. Apply econometric methods to analyse survey data and experimental results
  • 5. Evaluate threats to validity of a randomised experiment.
  • 6. Propose and design an experiment to answer a research question

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Evaluate the effectiveness of a given research design.
  • 8. Present of academic material and critical evaluation of methods.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22 (11 x 2 hours)Lectures: In these lectures I will present the main concepts and methods we use, as well derivations of the results to ensure students understand them in depth. These concepts and methods will be linked to their applications in the design and implementation of surveys & field experiments.
Scheduled learning and teaching activities5 (5 x 1 hour)Tutorials: In these tutorials we will review problem sets related to the core concepts. Students will also provide brief presentations of journal articles to highlight the particular methods used and link these to lecture material.
Guided Independent Study123 hoursThis independent study time will be split between background reading and reviewing lecture material (approx 50 hrs.) working on their proposed research design (approx. 30hrs) as well as their tutorial presentation (approx. 5hrs) and as reviewing for the exam (approx. 38hrs).

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Problem sets to be covered in tutorial, as well as presentation of academic journal articles.1 hour1,3,4,5,7,8Verbal
Proposal for research design1 page2,6,7,8Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Design of research project702000 words2,5,6,7,8Wriiten
Final exam301.5 hours1,3,4Wriiten

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Design of research projectDesign of research project (same as original)2,5,6,7,8August re-assessment period
Final examFinal exam (same as original)1,3,4August re-assessment period

Syllabus plan

Part 1: Methods

  • Data Collection: e.g. Sampling Strategies and Power Calculations
  • Tools for Survey Analysis:  e.g. Using sampling weights, quantile regression, etc.
  • Econometrics of why and how to randomize an experiment:  e.g: Identifying causal effects, randomization strategies, clustered randomization, adaptive randomization, etc.
  • Threats to validity: e.g Noncompliance, etc.
  • Analysis of Experiments: e.g Multiple Hypothesis Testing, Randomization inference, etc.

Part 2: Measurement & Survey Design

  • Core Tools and Concepts for Survey Design
  • Outcomes for Political Economy & Culture: e.g voting behaviour, corruption, ethnic bias, etc.
  • Outcomes for Agriculture: e.g output, productivity, etc.
  • Outcomes for Health: Biometric & behavioural measures
  • Outcomes for Entrepreneurs & Small Enterprises:
  • Outcomes in Education: Test scores & intermediate measures
  • Outcomes in Gender and Economics of the Family:

Part 3: Management

  • Research Ethics and Transparency

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

The following textbooks are good background, and specific chapters/sections of interest will be assigned during the module.

  • Deaton, Angus.  (1997).  The analysis of household surveys: a microeconometric approach to development policy.  Baltimore, MD:  Published for the World Bank [by] Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Banerjee, Abhijit & Duflo, Esther. (Eds). (2017).  Handbook of Field Experiments, Volume 1. Amsterdam, Netherlands: North Holland
  • Iarossi, Giuseppe. (2006). The Power of Survey Design A User's Guide for Managing Surveys, Interpreting Results, and Influencing Respondents (First Edition). Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.
  • Glennerster, R., & Takavarasha, K. (2013). Running randomized evaluations: A practical guide. Princeton University Press.

We will also refer to academic journal articles in lectures, which will be accessible to students online.


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