Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant launched the Great Lakes Social Science Network (GLSSN) in 2011 to help Sea Grant staff use social science methods to bolster conservation efforts and decision-making. The network serves as a platform for trainings to learn about social science methods and as a community for discussing social science theory and application. The network also connects Sea Grant professionals across programs to jointly pursue social science research in the Great Lakes.


The network hosts participant-driven, activity-based training sessions to introduce basic social science theories and build skills around specific data collections and communication tools. Topics are chosen by network members and training revisions are based on participant feedback. Sessions, held both virtually and in-person are discussion-based and provide an opportunity to practice learned skills and tools. Trainings are given in multiple iterations depending on the network’s need. Many thanks to the NOAA Coastal Services Center for their collaboration in helping develop and deliver trainings.

Writing Effective Survey Questions
Discussions in the session focus on 25 guidelines for creating a survey with clear and balanced questions that get to the heart of what a researcher needs to know. Activities include sample surveys and discussions about common errors.

Writing Effective Survey Questions (doc)
Survey Question Exercise (pdf)

Community-based Social Marketing (CBSM)

This session introduces tools used to foster changes in human behavior and discusses how to integrate them into coastal management projects.

From Theory to Practice: Social Marketing and Resilient Coastal Communities(pdf)

Social Science and Great Lakes Coastal Management

This session gives a basic overview of social science theory and application in Great Lakes coastal management, and includes current examples in Sea Grant.

Social Science and Great Lakes Coastal Management (pdf) 
Stakeholder Analysis Exercise (doc)

Focus on Focus Groups
This session provides an opportunity to practice new tools for planning and administering focus groups. Discussions include when focus groups are useful for investigating beliefs and attitudes of coastal management issues.

Focus on Focus Groups (pdf)
Focus Group Agenda Exercise (doc)


This session discusses coding of qualitative data. The participation-based group activity looks at data to teach basic, straightforward techniques adapted from social science methods research.

Coding Example Exercises (pdf)
Qualitative Analysis Exercise (doc)
Supplemental Reading Coding 1 (pdf)
Supplemental Reading Coding 2 (pdf)


Weather Ready Nation
In April 2013, the National Weather Service and Great Lakes Sea Grant Network asked the GLSSN to conduct a social science research project for Weather Ready Nation. The network was honored to help the NWS improve communication efforts. GLSSN social scientists (Jane Harrison, Kathy Bunting-Howarth, Hilarie Sorenson, Chris Ellis, and Caitie Nigrelli) have been researching the new impact-based warning system and designed a methodology to evaluate its effectiveness. In June, the research team presented the project to the broader GLSSN network and provided opportunities for involvement. The team will report their findings to the NWS and Great Lakes Sea Grant Network in winter 2013.

Evaluation of the National Weather Service Impact-based Warning Tool

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant
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Sea Grant
Purdue University