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Request Approval and Register Your Survey

Swarthmore College's Practice

Communication and coordination are our most powerful tools for avoiding oversurveying our populations and using their time and good will with duplicated questions!  Swarthmore has a standard practice for requesting approval from President's Staff for survey research.  (This is separate from the subject protection requirements of the Institutional Review Board, which may also be required.) We assume that members of our community will act responsibly and with our collective interests in mind. But that means that we need to be aware of other survey research so that we can talk to each other. This web site serves as a starting point for such communication by sharing our approval protocol and maintaining a list of current surveys

If you are contemplating a survey of any College population, be sure to discuss your work with others who are currently conducting surveys and with others who may have conducted similar surveys, and reach out to the Institutional Research office to see if information you seek is already available.  If you decide to move forward with your work, please send your response to the following questions, along with a copy of the instrument as well as the planned correspondence, to rshores1@swarthmore.edu

  • Who is requesting the survey?  
  • What is the purpose of the survey? (Include here if the survey was conducted before or is expected to be repeated, including when and why.)
  • Who will be surveyed and how do you plan to distribute the instrument? 
  • Will the survey be anonymous or not?  If not, why not, and how will confidential data be safeguarded?
  • What is the timing of the survey launch, any reminders, and closing?  
  • How will results be used and shared? 
  • What are the potential benefits of the survey? 
  • What is the status of IRB review, if applicable? 
  • Please note that we strongly discourage the use of incentives with surveys.  We believe that participating in surveys is an important and voluntary contribution to the Swarthmore community that should not require a reward.  While incentives may be effective in increasing responding for an individual survey, it sets a precedent and can suppress response rates to subsequent surveys that don't use incentives.  If you want an exception to this practice for your survey, please also include in your request why an exception is important, and specific information about the incentives you wish to use. 
  • Is there any other information that will help President’s Staff in reviewing this request?

The IR office will work with you to be sure that you have answered the questions completely.  Then we will bundle your request along with others, and forward to President's Staff for their decision.  As you can imagine, this may take several weeks, and so it is important to plan ahead.

Once your survey has been approved, we will need the following information for the survey list page: 

  • Survey Name
  • Sponsor — What person or group on campus requires the survey?
  • Vendor/Consortium/Proprietor — If you are developing your own survey, just say "Internally developed."
  • Type — Will the survey be paper, web, or other, and how will it be distributed (e.g. general email to a listserve, sent to individuals, distributed at an event)
  • Timing — When do you plan to administer the survey?
  • Population — Who will be surveyed?
  • Description — Write a brief description (one or two sentences) of your survey.
  • Contact — Who should be contacted with questions about the survey?

Participating in this communication effort is extremely important! It benefits both those conducting and those receiving surveys if we do our survey research in a coordinated way.