Internet-based surveys

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What are some tips for low-risk online surveys? 

You can view MSU IRB guidance on low-risk online surveys and exempt review here

Can I email people using their work email address?

In order to protect the participant, it is highly encouraged that you use non-work affiliated email addresses for soliciting participation. Many employers track all data sent via the Internet on employer issued devices. Thus, any data collected that may impact the participant's employability may be a risk to the participant. The following statement may be used: "We strongly advise that you do not use an employer issued device (laptop, smartphone, etc.) to respond to this survey. Specifically, no guarantees can be made regarding the interception of data sent via the Internet by any third party (i.e., your employer)."

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How is the informed consent process handled for Internet-Based research?

For Internet-based surveys, it is sometimes appropriate to use implied informed consent. Participants would still need to be presented with the consent information but would be informed that their consent is implied by submitting the completed survey.
Internet-based surveys can include "I agree" or "I do not agree" buttons on the website for participants to click their choice of whether or not they consent to participate.

If, for study design, the researcher needs to keep track of who participated or the IRB determines that some sort of documented consent is required, the researcher may email the consent form to participants who may then type their name and the date into the spaces provided on the consent form and return it to the researcher via email instead of using a "signed" informed consent. This process may be appropriate for data collected via email, chatrooms, online interviews, etc.

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Do you have a template for the implied informed consent form?

Yes, please see our templates here.

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Can I require certain questions to be answered by survey participants?

No, Internet-based survey instruments should be formatted in a way that will allow participants to skip questions if they wish or provide a response such as “I choose not to answer.”

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Is there an in-house Montclair online survey system I can use for my data collection?

Yes, please visit the Office of Information and Technology website for more information:

MSU Survey Service or

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Can I guarantee anonymity or confidentiality with an Internet-based survey?

Researchers conducting web-based research should be careful not to make guarantees of confidentiality or anonymity, as the security of online transmissions is in question. A statement indicating the limits to confidentiality is typically required. The following statement may be used: "Confidentiality will be maintained to the degree permitted by the technology used. Specifically, no guarantees can be made regarding the interception of data sent via the Internet by any third parties."

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What survey software does the IRB endorse for data collection?

The IRB does not currently endorse any one particular survey software. Items that may be considered to determine if the software chosen is appropriate include:

  • risk level of your protocol
  • if there are any identifiers collected in your protocol
  • access to the server limited to key project personnel and configured to minimize the possibility of external access to the server data.


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