The College has developed the following protocol for the collection of information from human populations through the use of online forms or surveys by members of the campus community. The purpose of these guidelines is threefold:
- Provide guidance to developers of online forms and surveys, and to the technical staff that support them, concerning compliance with ethical and legal rules governing research and data collection from human subjects.
- Coordinate technical support for the development, distribution, and analysis of online forms and surveys.
- Consolidate and coordinate online forms and surveys so as to avoid over-surveying.
Supported tools for administering online forms and surveys
The college currently supports two software tools for conducting online forms and surveys. Both tools are themselves web-based. Contact the help desk to request a user account for one of these tools.
Accounts with one of these tools generally do not limit the number of surveys or forms users can develop and conduct. However, users should review the following guidelines in light of each survey or form-based data collection project.
Legal / ethical policies governing data collection
The College’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) is charged with protecting the welfare, rights, and privacy of all persons participating in research – of which the web-based surveys and forms covered in this protocol are an example. The IRB reviews research activities with human subjects – including web-based forms and surveys – in light of this charge. Data collection that is conducted solely for the purposes of educational or program improvement is usually considered exempt from IRB review but if, after reviewing the College IRB’s website you have any questions about whether a review is required for your project, please contact David Consiglio (x6534, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Examples for deciding whether your project requires full IRB review. This list is for guidance only, and does not replace IRB review itself. It applies to surveys for research or opinion polling as well as forms used by administrative offices. Click here for a link to Bryn Mawr College's Institutional Review Board.
Require IRB review:
Examples that do not require IRB review:
- attitudes or behavior which, if known outside the research, might harm the respondent’s reputation
- information about mental or physical health
- participation in illegal activities (including alcohol or drug use)
- personal or private information (e.g., annual income, sexual behavior, student grades, financial aid status)
- information that is normally confidential (e.g., social security number, criminal background information, information about health history, religious or political background)
- form asking respondents to RSVP or register for an event
- form asking students to register for classes or apply to study abroad
- form asking respondents to select a T-shirt style or make a meal selection for an event.
Technical / expert support for your online form or survey
Once you have a user account for one of these tools, you will find they are easy to use, and that the related help menus and guides will address many technical questions for simple forms and surveys. However, we encourage you to think through the entire data collection process before launching your form or survey, as this will ensure that the data you collect are valid and usable. Contact David Consiglio (x6534 email@example.com) or Richard Barry (x6532 firstname.lastname@example.org) for expert advice on implementing good surveys and forms.
If the information you will collect will need to be integrated with existing databases such as People Soft or Financial Edge, either now or in the future, please contact the help desk for assistance with your project.