Research Blog: Survey Methodology turns 40!

February 3, 2015

By Susie Fortier, Business Survey Methods Division

Survey Methodology, a semi-annual journal published by Statistics Canada, explores various aspects of survey methods used by statistical agencies. Specifically, it discusses issues related to survey and questionnaire design, data collection and analysis, and sample design development and evaluation. In addition, the journal presents weighting methods as well as techniques and theories for measuring and reducing survey error. It also deals with inference from survey data and its theoretical foundations, the use of various data sources to complete or replace surveys, and the history and development of survey methods.

Internationally renowned authors

Papers published in Survey Methodology—written by researchers, statisticians, mathematicians and methodologists from around the world—are submitted for evaluation to the journal's editorial board. The board is comprised of internationally renowned experts in the field of survey methods and leaders from the public, academic and private sectors. To ensure the quality and accuracy of a paper, the editor-in-chief evaluates its relevance and then asks an editorial board member to review it thoroughly. A designated editor is usually assisted by at least two anonymous reviewers. Any of the reviewers may accept or reject the paper, or recommend minor or major modifications. These experts perform this work on a volunteer basis, for the benefit of science. In general, one out of three papers submitted meets the necessary relevance and quality standards required for publication.

Once accepted, the papers are formatted according to the release standards and translated into both official languages. They are then converted into HTML5 format to ensure they are accessible for readers with visual impairment—a labour intensive step, if a paper contains numerous symbols, mathematical formulae, charts, images and tables. However, this effort ensures that the journal's papers will be accessible to all readers.

In honour of Joseph Waksberg

Since 2001, the journal's December issue has included an invited paper in honour of Joseph Waksberg, a major contributor to the development of survey methodology. Each year, a prominent survey statistician is chosen to author a paper that examines the evolution and current state of a major theme in survey methodology. These papers reflect the range of theories and practices stemming from the Mr. Waksberg's work.

The latest issue of Survey Methodology, December 2014, features a paper by Constance F. Citro, the 14th recipient of the Waksberg Award and director of the Committee on National Statistics of the National Research Council / National Academy of Sciences in the United States.

In this paper, entitled "From multiple modes for surveys to multiple data sources for estimates," Dr. Citro maintains that, to meet the needs of users, statisticians can and must move from producing the best estimates possible from a survey to producing the best possible fit-for-use estimates from multiple data sources. The author begins by discussing the advantages of probability sampling in official U.S. statistics and the increasing threats to the quality of survey-based estimates. She then examines the strengths and weaknesses of using administrative records and other non-probabilistic data sources to produce official statistics. Lastly, she presents a way to transform existing household survey programs, reviews obstacles on the road to the multiple data source paradigm and suggests ways of reducing those obstacles.

The impact of Survey Methodology

The journal publishes approximately 10 papers per issue, twice a year. Since its first issue 40 years ago, Survey Methodology has published 761 papers. Some of these papers have been cited more than 900 times in journals indexed by Google Scholar. They have also been cited in dissertations, PhD theses, scientific literature and scholarly publications, and in presentations delivered at symposia and conferences on statistical methods. A number of papers published in Survey Methodology continue to serve as reference documents that significantly influence scientific development of survey methodology.

Note to readers and authors

Electronic versions of papers published in Survey Methodology since 1999 are available on the Statistics Canada website. Electronic copies of papers published between 1975 and 1998 are available on request (

Authors wishing to publish a paper are invited to submit an electronic copy (preferably in Word), in English or French, to the editor of Survey Methodology ( For more information on preparing articles for submission, please refer to the Guidelines for manuscripts.

Susie Fortier is the chief of Statistics Canada's Time Series Research and Analysis Centre, responsible for seasonal adjustment and survey methodology for price indices.  She also works as the production manager of the journal Survey Methodology.

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