Online surveys or questionnaires
Research involving humans - response to COVID-19
17 April 2020
Until further notice, all research activity involving travel or face-to-face interaction with participants must now stop. See the announcement in full here: Urgent announcement regarding research involving humans (PDF) . This is in line with the approach being taken by the NHS and other institutions. See also the information regarding researchers and fieldworkers abroad.
Research at this time must be conducted using online or remote methods. If that is not possible, it must be postponed.
For more information, see the interim guidance for research involving humans. The guidance includes the types of research that can continue, ethical considerations, making a new ethical review application or amending an existing ethical approval in the current circumstances.
This page contains information on selecting an appropriate platform for an online survey or questionnaire and how to ensure that:
- participants are given appropriate project information, including legally required data protection information, in a form they can retain indefinitely
- participants have the opportunity to ask questions should they wish
- participants' consent is obtained.
Selecting a platform
The University recommends Qualtrics as an online survey and questionnaire platform for research and encourages researchers to use it. The University has a licence for Qualtrics, meaning it is free to use for all those with a University login.
Current staff and students can access their account by going to the University of St Andrews Qualtrics site and using their University login details. Within Qualtrics, a range of training materials on how to use the software are provided.
Participant information and consent
Before participating in a project, participants should always be provided with a participant information sheet that they can keep and provided with an opportunity to ask questions about the project should they wish. You must obtain their consent to participate.
When using online surveys or questionnaires to collect data, researchers should:
- Provide an initial page before their survey starts, which contains a brief summary of the project, the information from the participant information sheet, the researchers contact details, and a downloadable participant information sheet.
- this is important so that participants are given the legally required data protection information in a form that they can retain.
- Provide a final page containing a ‘Submit’ button, prefaced by a statement reminding the participant that clicking the final ‘Submit’ button of the survey at the end will constitute the participant providing consent to participate, in full knowledge of the information in the participant information sheet.
Example statements for both of these pages is provided below. The template participant information sheet is provided on the template documents web page.
Researchers should consider what will happen with participants data should they only partially complete the survey and fail to complete the final 'submit' phase that indicates consent. If partial data is of value and would not compromise the integrity of the dataset it may be worthwhile:
- ensuring it is not a requirement for submission that all questions be answered
- including a statement to let participants know that they can exit the survey at any time by skipping to the final page