ALLBUS is a multi-topic survey program. Consequently, each ALLBUS survey is built around one or two alternating main topical modules (e.g. 'political participation' or 'social inequality'). A changing set of individual questions and item batteries additionally covers smaller areas of interest. Finally, each survey contains a set of questions which are part of every ALLBUS survey. Except for a limited number of important sociological indicators (e.g. political interest), this constant set of questions is made up of the ALLBUS demography module, which collects detailed socio-demographic data on the respondent, his or her spouse or partner, the respondent's parents and other kin. Also part of every ALLBUS data set are survey paradata, geographical classifications and derived data.
While many background variables are replicated in every ALLBUS survey, topical questions are replicated in longer intervals in order to monitor long-term trends in attitudes, behavior and societal change. Complete topical modules are replicated about every 10 years, whereas individual questions or smaller item batteries, like attitudes towards gender roles or attitudes towards foreigners, often follow a shorter cycle of 4 to 6 years. Before replicating complete topical modules, the established instruments are evaluated and the module is revised and updated so as to reflect current developments in sociological theory as well as in social reality.
Since 1986, ALLBUS also regularly hosts the German part of the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP), i.e. the German ISSP modules are surveyed as part of the ALLBUS interview and the resulting data is part of the regular ALLBUS data sets. The ISSP-program consists of rotating cross-national surveys that focus on a single topic, e.g. "Role of Government" or "National Identity". Unlike the ALLBUS program, the German ISSP modules are usually administered as self-completion questionnaires.