Online surveys or questionnaires
Research involving humans - response to COVID-19
15 January 2021
Due to the current circumstances, researchers must consider using online or remote methods where at all possible.
Any in-person face-to-face research or research involving travel must be permissible, safe and ethical.
Due to the current circumstances and restrictions in Scotland and the rest of the UK, research involving in-person contact with human participants is only permissible in very limited situations. For more information see the University research and coronavirus page.
Researchers must check the University coronavirus information pages and travel and fieldwork guidance frequently and before commencing any activity to ensure they are complying with current requirements.
For more information on the ethical review process at this time, see the interim guidance for research involving humans.
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