IRB Guidance: Requirements and Tips for including Surveys, Interviews, and Tasks
When surveys, interviews, or tasks are part of the research activities for a study, written instruments for these activities must be submitted to and reviewed by the IRB before approval can be granted. The following guidance provides requirements and tips for appropriate format and content of these instruments.
The finalized survey questions in the version/format the participant will see them must be included in the application.
- Upload a PDF or word document with all questions and associated answer options (e.g., Yes/No, multiple choice, free text box).
- For online surveys, DO NOT upload a link to the survey, as links are not static. The IRB requires an actual document to be a permanent part of the file.
- If using an electronic format for the survey, avoid non-compliance due to over-enrollment by putting a cap on the number of surveys that can be initiated/completed in the survey platform. Qualtrics, the campus-approved survey platform, allows users to set response limits.
- If the survey will be administered in a language other than English, upload both an English and translated version.
- Generally, participants must be allowed to skip questions. If a survey is set up so that participants cannot proceed unless they have answered a question, the IRB suggests including a "Choose not to respond" option.
- Avoid including the consent document as part of the uploaded survey. This document is already requested elsewhere in the application and if changes are subsequently made to the consent, the uploaded survey would also require revisions.
- Keep in mind that the type/framing of questions may affect the level of IRB review required. For instance, inclusion of open-ended questions or responses (e.g., “Provide specific details” or “Describe in your own words”) could prompt a participant to include identifiable or sensitive information, which in turn could increase the confidentiality risks for that person.
- A “standardized” instrument is one that has been validated in literature. If the survey only includes some of the questions from a standardized instrument or combines questions from several standardized instruments, then it should not be listed as “standardized” in the IRB application.
- If administering a standardized instrument, upload a copy of the instrument itself for review. IRB review is not considered breaking copyright.
When an interview is included in the study, the uploaded document should include either:
- Structured Interview: A list of all the questions that will be presented to participants.
- Semi-Structured Interview: A list of the topics that will be covered during the interview, with example questions where possible. Include a statement that the researcher plans to keep the conversation within the scope of the topics presented.
- Note: A Change of Protocol must be submitted and approved to broaden the list of topics/questions before proceeding.
- If questions may prompt participants to name persons not involved in the research, ask the participant to avoid naming or directly identifying others before beginning the interview. Instead, those persons can be referred to by their relationship with the participant (e.g., family member, friend, colleague, etc.).
- If the interview will be administered in a language other than English, please upload both an English and translated version.
- Questions that directly solicit negative/critical information about an individual/organization with whom the participant is affiliated or closely involved should be avoided when possible, as a breach of confidentiality could cause a higher risk to that participant’s reputation or harm the relationship. If such questions must be asked to adequately address the research question, ensure that strong protections for privacy and data storage are in place. The Risk section of the consent form must also address the potential risk.
When participant tasks (e.g., games, mental stimuli, journaling) are part of the study activities, please include the following.
- A written description of the task itself (i.e., what the participant will be asked to do);
- Any stimulus associated with the task (e.g., photos, videos, problem sets, screen shots from video games, etc.);
- A list of the data the researcher will record based on performance of the task.
- The task description should include:
- The space where it will occur;
- Whether the researcher(s) will be present during the task;
- Any persons or items the participant will interact with (e.g., other participant groups, objects/toys, etc.);
- Whether the task will be recorded using video/audio recording or eye tracking.
- If using video/image stimulus as part of the task, confirm they are stock videos/images or that permission to use the stimulus for research has been granted by the stimulus owner or persons visible in the stimulus.
- Upload the stimulus in the version/format in which it will be presented to participants.