PRL Services

Research Services Offered by the PRL

The Population Research Laboratory (PRL) provides a wide range of research services.  Projects can be initiated either by the submission of a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) or consultation with PRL managerial staff to establish the parameters of the service required.  Written cost estimates are prepared upon request.

Total Survey Design

From the outset of a proposed project, the PRL strives to address all aspects of the survey process to achieve the highest quality results.  A core team of survey consultants are available to work collaboratively with individuals and organizations to meet their research needs.  We provide consultation on sampling strategies, data collection methods, questionnaire design, interviewing procedures, data management and analytical techniques appropriate to the study objectives.  Survey protocols are designed by the PRL to adhere to standardized guidelines for ethical conduct for research involving humans.

Project Management

The PRL provides project management services from the consultation phase to the preparation of deliverables.  Our project managers have comprehensive backgrounds in questionnaire design, planning of in-house and field surveys, data management, data analysis and report writing.  In addition, the PRL draws from faculty staff at the University of Alberta to act as consultants for specific projects.  The skills and interests of the staff are matched with the needs of each project.

Primary Data Collection and Analysis

The PRL specializes in collecting original or primary data for a specific purpose. Often we can help with the interpretation of samples and population, construction of sampling frames and sample selection.  Our data collection modes are constantly being refined to match client needs and industry trends.  Following data collection, the PRL can analyze the data using basic descriptive statistics or complex multivariate techniques.

Questionnaire Design

The PRL provides consultation for the design of reliable survey instruments for telephone, in-person, mail-out and self-administered surveys.  A draft questionnaire usually involves a pretest with a sample of respondents to check for wording, response categories, skip instructions, question order effect and respondent burden.  Paper surveys are designed for either direct data entry or optical scanning.  At the completion of a study, the PRL produces a questionnaire-codebook and/or data dictionary.

Demographic Studies

The PRL conducts demographic studies of population structures and transitions to assist clients with policy-making.

Our main services include:

  • Tabulation and graphic presentation of current population trends for designated geographic areas;
  • Small area and special population estimation and projection;
  • Customized municipal and special population census and enumeration data analysis and interpretation.

 For more information on demographic services contact Dave Odynak.

Secondary Data Analysis

In addition to primary data collection, the PRL offers a variety of services for the analysis of secondary or archived data.  Analyses range from basic descriptive statistics aimed at a general audience to more rigorous multivariate analyses.  For over 17 years, the PRL has offered training in quantitative social science methods and statistics through the University of Alberta's Summer Data Institute.

The following are some of our services pertaining to secondary data analysis:

 Linking external secondary data sets on common fields;

  • Customized data set construction based on varying aggregated units of analysis - person record, household record, agency, program and institutional units;
  • Conversion of data to a variety of statistical software and database programs;
  • Training in the use of selected statistical software packages for data entry, processing and basic descriptive analysis.

    For more information on secondary data analysis services contact Dave Odynak.
Internet Surveys

We can custom design your web survey incorporating logos, graphics and content.  Our current web surveying software is excellent for handling closed (numeric) and open-ended free text.  Additional features that we offer are e-mail invitations, e-mail reminders, passwords, quotas and web reports.  In addition, we can do e-mail surveys, sending out the form electronically and processing the returned questionnaires.  We also offer expertise with web data that may have been collected with other software packages such as Survey Monkey and Qualtrics.

Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing

During the past two decades, the traditional telephone survey using paper-and-pencil procedures has been primarily replaced by Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) in a centralized research facility at the PRL.  We have developed a strong reputation for meeting tight deadlines for CATI data collection and providing high quality results within a competitive price framework.  Surveys can be conducted with either the general population or a client-defined population.


The Population Research Laboratory (PRL) uses Sawtooth Technologies Wincati Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) software on a local area network. The PRL maintains 30 interviewing stations on-site at the University of Alberta. Our system can accommodate a number of questionnaire item designs including multiple response, randomized lists, open-ended and conditional responses.

Typically, the PRL utilizes one of two different sampling strategies for our CATI surveys:
    1. Random digit dialing (RDD)
    RDD generates random samples of telephone numbers for general population surveys. For example, the Alberta Survey uses RDD to select phone numbers for interviewing in three separate sub-samples in the province: Edmonton, Calgary, and other Alberta.
    2. Client provided samples
    Clients provide a list of potential respondents. For example, panel and tracking surveys, customer satisfaction surveys, patient and client follow-up questionnaires.

For more information about CATI visit the vendor site:

Face-to-Face Interviewing

The PRL recruits, trains and supervises a team of interviewers for face-to-face surveys.  Our interviewers typically have broad experience in conducting semi-structured interviews in residential homes and selected settings, census enumeration and/or "exit" surveys.

Census Enumeration

We provide on-site training and assistance for the planning of small area census enumeration.  For studies where the client chooses to hire interviewers directly, the PRL can develop customized training manuals and orientation sessions.

Mail-out Surveys

The PRL provides consultation on questionnaire design, production of questionnaire packages, materials management and data analysis.  We provide assistance in developing professional covering letters, study information sheets and follow-up post-cards to obtain higher response rates and minimize non-respondent error.

Focus Groups

The PRL selects members of the public, using random-digit-dialing (RDD) techniques, for potential participation in focus groups and citizen forums.  The CATI system automatically monitors the sampling quotas such as age, gender, education level and geographical area.  The PRL has access to research associates with experience in the facilitation of focus groups and reporting of qualitative information.

Mixed Mode

In today's research world, one research strategy may not satisfy the diverse nature of complex populations and available contact databases. Research organizations have increasingly relied on multi-modes of data collection and strategies to contact various populations such as in-person and self-enumeration on web or CATI and web. The PRL offers consultation and data collection services in this emerging research methodology.