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When developing surveys, researchers can readily identify the concepts they intend to study, but how do they create individual survey items that will most accurately measure those concepts? Here we describe the first year of a four-year NSF project in which the E3 Team (Exploring Ethical Decision Making in Engineering) prepared to develop a national survey of the curricular and co-curricular activities, events, and experiences affecting the ethical development of engineering undergraduates. As this survey is likely to be the most comprehensive assessment of ethical development - both in content and scope - ever administered to engineering undergraduates, it is critical the development process includes rigorous and thorough educational research methods. By using such methods, we greatly increase the probability our survey instrument will appropriately measure the determinants of ethical behavior in engineering undergraduates.