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Guidelines for Authors


These guidelines are designed to help authors to prepare articles for Survey Practice that are readable by a wide audience.

Quick Tips:

The electronic medium. Shorter sentences and paragraphs are best suited to electronic publications. Readers need text that is concise and useful rather than wordy and vague.

Survey Practice readers. Survey Practice readers are diverse, ranging from new to very experienced survey researchers. The levels of education range from undergraduates through PhDs. Survey Practice readers want to get to the important points of the articles quickly. Your message will be better understood with simple explanations and less complex sentences. Short articles (no more than 1500 words) are more likely to be read carefully.

Consistency in style and format. Following the specified guidelines for style and the instructions regarding citations, references, and submission formats will create a smoother editorial process. Consistency in these elements also minimizes readers’ confusion about the treatment of various elements.

The Guidelines for Authors are not absolute but following them helps the editors and readers, and can simplify the preparation of your article. Please remember the 1500 word limit for Survey Practice articles.

Writing Tips

Consider the following tips for creating concise text:

 Be Specific

Be specific about all references to time, quantity, etc.

Instead of using currently or recently, specify a time. Often when now and currently are implied, these words can be deleted without loss of meaning.

Instead of saying more cases were added to the sample; give a number or a rough estimate, such as about 100.

Use Shorter Words

Choose short, familiar words whenever possible.

When more than 15 percent of your words (except verbs and proper nouns) are three or more syllables, readers work too hard to understand your message. To reduce larger words, consider these tips:

Convert nouns ending in -ion into verbs. Use “We considered …” instead of “We took into consideration ….”

Replace longer words with shorter, e.g., endeavor with try, aggregate with total, optimum with best, approximately with about, utilize with use.

Delete Extra Words

Making your point without extraneous words helps readers clearly understand your message.

Evaluate every “that” in your text. Often “that” can be deleted without loss of meaning.

Avoid starting sentences with “In order to . . . .” deleting the words “in order,” loses no meaning.

Rarely is the word “very” needed. Consider deleting it or choosing another word. “Very good” can be “excellent,” and “very important” can be “key.”

When the first draft is complete, revise it and attempt to reduce the word count by 25 percent

Examine sentences containing “of the,” “in the,” and “at the” clauses. Often a possessive apostrophe works just as well. For example, instead of saying “…the Center for Survey Research at Indiana University …” consider phrasing it as “Indiana University’s Center for Survey Research.” Sometimes such clauses are necessary but often they are not.

Do a search for adverbs ending in “ly.” Often dropping them affects meaning little, e.g.,: “on more nearly equal terms” –> “on more equal terms” “I particularly like the” –> “I like the”

Use Shorter Sentences

At least 75 percent of your sentences should average 10-20 words. If a sentence is longer than 30 words, consider shortening it or splitting it into two sentences.

Think of your sentence lengths as music: quick, quick, slow becomes short, short, longer. Pleasing variations help your readers pay attention.

 Use Shorter Paragraphs

Keep at least 75 percent of your paragraphs one to three sentences long. If a paragraph has more than six sentences, consider shortening it or splitting it into two paragraphs. Remember that most readers will read the article onscreen in small windows.

 Avoid Clichés and Jargon

Choose original ways of writing your message, avoiding well-known phrases and clichés.

 Avoid Organization-specific Terms 

Don’t assume that other survey researchers use the same terms as your organization. Explain terms if you are not sure everyone will understand them.

 Watch Use of Vague Pronouns

Avoid starting a sentence or clause with “it” unless the pronoun has a clear antecedent.

Avoid starting sentences with “there” to prevent the use of “empty” introductory language.

 Use Strong Verbs

Use “strong” verbs whenever possible. Forms of the verb to be (e.g. am, is, are, was, were) do not maintain readers’ interest.

Instead of saying, “The meeting was productive,” consider, “The meeting generated good ideas for . . . .”

 Favor the Active Voice

Favor the active voice over the passive voice to avoid vagueness unless the action is more important than the doer of the action.

Instead of saying “There have been significant changes in random digit dialing…”  say “Random digit dialing significantly changed …”  and consider whether “significantly” is needed at all.

Instead of saying “Response rates have been defined as …,” tell who did the redefining, e.g., “AAPOR defined response rates as …” 

 Ask So What?

Evaluate every sentence in your paper by asking yourself – why is this particular piece of information important to Survey Practice readers? If you cannot answer the question adequately about a sentence, consider deleting it.

Style Guidelines

For Survey Practice’s editorial purposes, please adhere to these style guidelines when referencing the following:


Explain each and every first occurrence. For example, use National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) once and then use NSSE later in the manuscript.

Electronic Mail

Refer to electronic mail as e-mail or E-mail but not email or Email.


The Internet should be called the Internet, not the internet, the net, the Net, or the ‘Net. The Web should start with upper-case.


The numbers zero through nine should be spelled out except when referring to data or measurements, such as “The 3 X 2 table….”

All whole numbers above nine should appear as Arabic numerals, such as 10, 11, 12.

Ordinal numbers should be spelled out, as in twentieth.

A number at the start of a sentence should be spelled out, as in “Fourteen interviews were transcribed ….”


Write percent, not %.


Favor the use of the first-person pronoun, e.g., We analyzed …

Avoid awkward constructions like he/she by revising sentences.

Tables & Figures

Capitalize all references to your tables and figures, such as “see Figure 1” or “see Table 2 below”.

Always spell out the words Figure or Table in reference to illustrations in the course of the paper.

Use lower case for references to figures or tables in cited literature, such as (Kokomo, 1999, figure 8) or (Dolton, 1968, table 5).

Verb Tense

Choose a verb tense and maintain its use throughout the document. Carefully consider use of the future tense except perhaps in an “Implications” section.

In discussions of the literature, use the past tense, as in “Groves (1988) discussed the ….”

Citation Format

Extensive use of citations and quotations is not recommended. Using the names in sentences is recommended over citations. For example, “Hawthorn (2005) noticed that …” is better than (Hawthorn, 2005). However, citation included in the article should appear in the following ways.

General Format

The last name of the author of cited work should appear in the paper, followed by the year of publication of the book, paper, report, or document, as in (Jones, 1990).

If there are several references to authors with the same surname, initials should be used to differentiate between the authors, as in (C. Jones, 1990; D. Jones, 1985).

Two Authors

For references containing two authors, list the authors in order of their appearance in the original publication, followed by date of publication, as in (Smith and Jones, 1986).

Three or More Authors

If a reference contains three or more authors, the citation should appear as (Rogers et al., 1980).

Publications in Press

Cite publications in press (i.e. those documents accepted for publication but not yet published) as (Rivers, in press).

Direct Quotations

Cite direct quotations as (Merrell, 1994, p. 98).

Indirect Quotations

A citation can refer to text written by one author embedded in the text of a book or paper written by another author, such as (Ransmayr in Rothenberg, 1995).

Multiple Citations

Multiple citations can appear in whatever order the author deems relevant, such as (Shane and Cushing, 1991; Chalmers, 1990; Kendall and Wells, 1992).

Reference Format

All citations in the paper should be listed in the References section. No citations should be listed in the References section that are not cited in the course of the paper. They could be included in a Further Readings section.

Papers in Journals

Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Journal Volume.Issue (Year): pages.

Green, Donald P. and Alan S. Gerber. “Can Registration-based Sampling Improve the Accuracy of Midterm Election Forecasts?” Public Opinion Quarterly 70.2 (2006): 197-223.

Barreto, Matt A., Matthew J. Streb, Mara Marks, and Fernando Guerra. “Do Absentee Voters Differ from Polling Place Voters? New Evidence from California.” Public Opinion Quarterly 70.2 (2006): 224-234.

Papers in Edited Volumes

Lastname, First name. “Title of Essay.” Title of Collection. Ed. Editor’s Name(s). Place of Publication: Publisher, Year. Pages.

Fesco, Ron. “A Review of Errors of Direct Observation in Crop Yield Surveys.” Measurement Errors in Surveys. Ed. Biemer, Paul P., Robert M. Groves, Lars E. Lyberg, Nancy A. Mathiowetz, and Seymour Sudman. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1991. 327-346.

Papers in Conference Proceedings

Zaslavsky, Alan. “Chip Alexander and the American Community Survey.”. Proceedings of the Survey Research Methods Section (ASA 2003). Boston, MA: 4714-4716.

Singer, Eleanor and Stanley Presser. “Public Attitudes Towards Data Sharing: Findings and Implications.” Proceedings of the Survey Research Methods Section (ASA 1997). Ann Arbor, MI: 34-40.

Papers in Journals on the Web

Similar to journals in papers.

Dueze, Mark. “Towards Professional participatory Storytelling in Journalism and Advertising” First Monday 10.7 (2005): 6 October 2006

Web Sites

Include the date retrieved and the complete URL.

Google at, 6 October 2008.

 SocioSite: Social Science Information System based at the University of Amersterdam. 9 October 2007.

Book by One Author

Author. Title. Place of publication. Publisher, Year.

Groves, Robert M. Survey Errors and Survey Costs. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1989.

Books by More Than One Author

Authors. Title. Place of publication. Publisher, Year.

Sudman, Seymour, Norman M. Bradburn, and Norbert Schwartz. Thinking About Answers: The Application of Cognitive Processes to Survey Methodology. San Francisico: Jossey-Bass, 1996.

Papers/Books in Press

Similar to published papers/books.

Steensland, Brian. The Failed Welfare Revolution: America’s Struggle over Guaranteed Income Policy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, Forthcoming.

Submission Format

Each manuscript might contain the following elements:

A title

Names of authors and organization affiliations with e- mail addresses

Clearly labeled headings that might include: introduction, findings, discussion, and conclusion

Acknowledgments, if any


Further readings, if any

Title and Author(s)

Place the title of the paper at the top of the first page of the manuscript. Follow the title by the full name of all authors, with their organization affiliations and e-mail addresses.

If one author should function as the point of contact for questions or comments, please indicate so with the phrase “direct comments to” followed by the author’s e-mail address.

Final Checklist

Use the following checklist to ensure that your text is ready for submission to Survey Practice.

Does the introductory text quickly engage readers’ interest because it does one of the following:

 Briefly describes a research problem that leads to the main point;

Immediately surprises readers with new information; or

Presents about three short ideas or examples, and then summarizes their significance in one sentence.

 Is the text as concise as possible while maintaining its logic and completeness?

 Is each word essential to the article?

Is all dull language removed and replaced by lively verbs where appropriate?

Are there specific examples with clear references to time, size, etc.?

Is the article written so that it is understood by Survey Practice’s diverse audience?

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