Supporting Scholarship: The Center for Social Research

Author: Josh Stowe

A Notre Dame professor analyzes the resilience of the human spirit in war-torn, poverty-stricken Uganda. A graduate student explores a collection of charter schools to determine how teachers’ networking affects their classroom performance. And a group of faculty and staff helps a national organization assess and redesign the training it offers to managers.

All three efforts are among the social research projects the University supports through a significant investment its Strategic Academic Planning Committee has made: the Center for Social Research (CSR), which is online at The new center aims to help University faculty, students and staff of all disciplines who conduct research on social questions.

“Supporting the research activities of our faculty is a key priority of the University of Notre Dame, and the new Center for Social Research is an important part of this investment,” says Robert J. Bernhard, the University’s vice president for research. “I am particularly pleased that this new center will be focusing its work on projects that deal with social research. It will assist our faculty and students as they work to solve social problems and gain important insights into the human condition—and, as such, is a natural fit with the University’s mission.”

Christian Smith, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology and the CSR’s director, says the center will help improve the quality and efficiency of social research on both large and small projects by providing ongoing support for data collection, management, and analysis.

“Faculty and students use a host of tools to gather and analyze the data on which they build their social research projects,” Smith says. “The Center for Social Research was founded with these scholars and their research needs in mind. Its expert staff can assist with the entire process, from research design to datasets acquisition and management, statistical problem solving, and grant budget administration.”

The CSR supports scholarship across a research project’s life cycle—from grant proposal development to publication. In so doing, it offers four core services: Statistical consulting, Survey research, Data management, and Grant administration.

“Statistical services include everything from statistical software troubleshooting to complex research design,” says Kate Mueller, the CSR’s associate director. “The center’s staff can assist in developing an appropriate research design to ensure that the data collected meet the needs of the preferred statistical methods. The staff can also design custom methodologies, field inquiries related to quantitative methods, and draft methodological notes for inclusion in journal articles, books and other publications.

“Survey research services include assistance in designing survey instruments, developing appropriate sampling frames, facilitating the deployment of surveys and developing appropriate weights for the collected data. The CSR,” Mueller says, “can deploy Web-based surveys to a defined population and also help to identify and work with vendors that offer samples or specialize in telephone and/or face-to-face interviews.”

Data management services support the analysis required for both quantitative and qualitative social research. CSR staff can assist with acquiring datasets, managing data collection efforts, conducting appropriate analyses and diagnostics, and archiving data for future use by other researchers.

Finally, Mueller says the center can facilitate researchers’ compliance with the financial reporting associated with research grants. CSR staff can make budget projections, coordinate financial data and prepare financial reports required for compliance.

“We want to be a resource of first resort for all social researchers,” Mueller says. “If your inquiry is something we can’t handle, we will do our best to refer you to other resources within or external to the University.”

Contact: Kate Mueller, 574-631-6166,