When collecting data for research or research-related purposes it is important to consider what is the best tool for your project. Furthermore, information security and legal compliance need to be taken into account.
It is important to note that when collecting personal data through an online survey, the third-party service provider you have chosen to host your survey will be acting in the capacity of a data processor as defined under data protection laws. As such, it is important to ensure that there is a written contract in place detailing both parties’ liabilities and responsibilities. Please also remember that whatever instrument you chose to collect data, there will be an element of data storage (even if temporary).
At our Institution there are institutional agreements already in place which allow you to use a number of tools with survey capabilities.
JISC Online Surveys
Online Surveys (formerly known as Bristol Online Surveys) is an easy to use survey tool that is managed by Jisc, with servers based in the UK. It is free to use for University staff and students. To access it you must request an account from DDAT, using the Online Surveys application form. Staff and Doctoral students are able to request their own access. Undergraduate and postgraduate Masters' students are also able to use Online Surveys, but their accounts must be requested by their project supervisor.
Microsoft Forms is available via the University’s access to Microsoft Office 365. You can use Forms to quickly and easily create custom surveys and quizzes. You do not need to sign up as staff and students already have access to Forms with their usual University username and password. You can collect responses instantly and share the form with others to collaborate provided they have a Microsoft user account.
Qualtrics is a survey tool used extensively in psychology and the social sciences. Please note that access to Qualtrics requires a licence which is coming to an end (October 2023). For more information please see QuestionsPro. Learn how to access Qualtrics.
The University is currently negotiating* a site-wide license for QuestionPro, an online survey platform. QuestionPro is a GDPR compliant survey software, a digital tool that enables you to design, send and analyse online surveys. QuestionPro is a leading survey software, enabling users to add multiple question types, logic, and personalised branding.
The platform will be available to both staff and students.
(*date of last update March 2023)
Top Tips – carrying out surveys
When using online tools or apps to collect identifiable data from research participants, you must ensure that the tool you use complies with data protection legislation. This includes ensuring that the data are held on servers within the European Economic Area, and restricting who has access to them. Tools such as Survey Monkey and Google Forms do not meet these requirements. Depending on the platform used, you may also be required to set up a data sharing agreement, to cover transfer of personal data to a third party. Please email the data protection team at email@example.com for more information and guidance.
When collecting data from research participants please ensure that you include participant information and informed consent materials at the start, before participants progress to the survey questions. You must set up the survey so that it captures a record of the participant's acknowledgement that they provide informed consent to continue.