Web-Based Survey Policy


EMU uses a web-based survey application to facilitate the gathering and analysis of data from different audiences, both on and off campus. This application reduces the cost of gathering data, facilitates the tracking of respondents to send reminders, and eliminates the task of entering data. The following guidelines have been developed to inform campus users about the application and to prevent the misuse and overuse of web-based surveys.

The Information Systems Office (IS) is in charge of the maintenance and enhancement of the functionality of the survey application. The Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness (IR) serves as gatekeeper for the application.

These guidelines define who can use the tool, set priorities for its use, and define some parameters to assist us in maintaining the quality of web surveys on campus. The guidelines also set some basic standards for protecting the confidentiality of respondents and generally protecting the rights of human subjects in research.

In the gatekeeper role, IR will be involved in assisting users in developing and reviewing surveys, ensuring that appropriate follow-up is done to improve response rates, and monitoring the schedule of web-based surveys to avoid over-surveying specific populations. IR also strives to establish a certain level of accountability that will motivate users think about how the data gathered will be used to improve programs and services on campus and to document those improvements.

Policy Statement

Who can use the tool?

The tool will be available to EMU offices, departments, or student organizations requesting the use of the tool for research or assessment activities designed to improve programs or services on campus. In order to reduce the possibility of non-response bias, the availability of the tool may be limited at certain times in order to prevent over-surveying a specific population.

Are there limitations on how often a specific population can be surveyed?

A useful rule of thumb is that no person should be surveyed more than once in any given 15-day period. After the initial email, an additional reminder can be sent, with the availability of the survey on the web limited to 10 days.

How would IR ensure that the surveys are of good quality, i.e. will produce useful information?

IR will provide guidelines for appropriate sampling, follow-up reminders, and structuring of survey items. IR will also gather information from users about the purpose of the survey and how they plan to use results from the survey. If data from the EMU administrative computer system will be merged with survey data, IR will refer the survey designers to the"owners"of that data to ensure that they are being used appropriately (field definitions, format, confidentiality, etc.) Follow-up forms will be used to gather data on the response rate, administration of the survey, and how results were used to improve programs and services on campus. Comments and suggestions for improvement of the functionality or use of the web-based survey tool will be solicited as well.

How will IR ensure that guidelines for the treatment of human subjects in research are followed?

IR staff will review the proposed survey questions and email/letter announcing the survey to ensure the following guidelines have been followed:

  • If the results of the research are to be published or presented at a conference, the approval of the EMU Institutional Review Board (IRB) is required.
  • If the results of the research are to be published or presented at a conference, the approval of the EMU Institutional Review Board (IRB) is required.If assessment results will not be published and the survey responses will be linked to an individual, formal IRB is not required; however, the purpose of the research, the fact that participation is voluntary, and actions to ensure confidentiality must be explained to participants. If the survey includes identifiers to facilitate sending reminders, IR staff will strip the identifiers from the data before releasing it to the user. If identifiers will be used to merge data with information in university databases, participants will be informed what additional information will be collected.
  • If data from student records are used in assessment research, all requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) must be met. Non-public student data may be used without the student’s consent by university employees for “legitimate educational” purposes provided the data are not reported in such a way that individual students can be identified. All other users must receive written consent from the student(s) to access non-public student data.

Responsible Party

The staff of the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness will be responsible for the implementation of the policy described above.

Policy Distribution

A copy of the policy will be available on the IR website and in the IR office, and will also be included in the policy notebook located in the President’s Office.

Requesting a Web-based Survey

A request to use the web-based survey tool should be submitted to IR on-line. Requesting a survey is a two-stage process that allows for survey planning and development. Forms for requesting a web-based survey must be submitted on-line and are available on the IR website (www.emu.edu/ir/survey).

Approved by Director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness, August 5, 2008