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Information technology tools and resources at the UW

Using WebQ for Research Surveys

With WebQ you can create online surveys for research that requires approval by the Human Subjects Division. This guide describes the features that WebQ offers and outlines suggested steps involved in creating research survey.

WebQ Features for Research Surveys

Recognized by the Human Subjects Division for use in survey research, WebQ is a powerful tool for creating online surveys. Here are some of the WebQ features that facilitate survey-based research:

  • Subjects need only a computer with Internet access to participate.
  • The survey data is automatically collected and compiled for you. You can view the results online or download them onto your computer.
  • Surveys can be secured with UW NetID, or other settings, to ensure complete security.
  • You have the option of making the surveys either anonymous or confidential.
  • Surveys can easily be accessed through a link on a Web page or in an email message.
  • Results can be imported into Excel or SPSS.
  • Use skip logic to only show relevant questions to your participants.

Planning and Administering a Research Survey

When creating a survey involving human subjects, you need to carefully plan it in advance. Here are the steps that you should take before creating the survey online.

Get Familiar with WebQ

To make sure that WebQ meets the needs of your research survey, take some time to get familiar with it. You can explore the software on your own, review the how-to documentation or drop by a technology help desk for one-on-one assistance.

Determine Whether Your Survey Needs HSD Approval

Not all surveys need to be reviewed by the UW Human Subjects Division (HSD). To determine if your survey is research that needs to be approved by the HSD, we recommend that you consult with HSD staff. You can browse the HSD Web site, call them at 206-543-0098, or send an email to Following the steps below will help you with the HSD approval process for your online research survey. Plan for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to receive approval from HSD.

Design Survey on Paper

We recommend that you design your survey on paper, before you start creating the survey in WebQ. Drafting and revising of the survey content will be a little easier using word processing software. Before you compose your survey, you should also get familiar with the question types that WebQ supports. And if you are using skip logic for your survey, you will want to plan the skip patterns out in advance.

You will be required to submit the content of your survey to the HSD when you apply for approval. As part of your application, they will want to have a hard copy of the survey question, the information statement, and any email announcements and email reminders (if you choose to have WebQ send these out to your participants).

Create an Electronic Information Statement

Typically, a research survey begins by providing the participants with information about the research project and how the data gathered will be treated, in order to meet guidelines for informed consent. Because an online survey typically cannot obtain written signatures on paper consent forms, online surveys are instead accompanied by an information statement. As part of the HSD application, you should provide the text of the information statement that you will have your participants read. You will also need to request a waiver of documentation of consent in your application, since you won’t be gathering signed consent forms (see the HSD explanation of waiver of written documentation of consent and contact HSD for more information.

You can select one of the following methods for showing the information statement to the survey participants:

  • First survey page (recommended): You can easily create a survey with multiple pages, and add the content of your information statement to the first page. If your participants agree to take the survey, instruct them to click “Next” to move on to the survey proper. If they prefer to opt out, instruct them to click “Cancel” to end the survey. This kind of information statement will work with all security settings, including custom email lists.
  • Email message: Create an email message that contains the text of the information statement and a link to your survey. Ask the participants to follow the link and take the survey if they agree to complete the survey. This kind of information statement will work with the “People with specific email addresses” security setting only if you include the text of the statement in the actual email announcement WebQ sends to the custom email list.
  • Web page: You can create a Web page containing the text of your information statement. After the statement, provide two links, one for “Begin survey” that will take your participants to your survey, and one for “No thanks” that will take your participants to some other generic “Thank you” page. This kind of information statement will not work with the “People with specific email addresses ” security setting.

We recommend that you review your options and create the information statement before submitting your application to the HSD.

Create Your WebQ Survey

Now that your survey questions, information statement, and email announcements and reminders have been written, you are ready to create your research survey. When creating a research survey with WebQ, you must specify if the survey is confidential or anonymous and subject to HSD review. Specifying this setting affects what identifying information about your participants is collected, and how it is stored. It also determines what security settings will be available for you to choose later in the process.

Be sure to indicate on the “Create survey ” page that “this survey is confidential, or is a confidential or anonymous survey subject to review by the UW Human Subjects Division.” You will then have two options of selecting how your results will be collected:

  • Confidential: Identifying information can be collected but will be stored separately from responses. You can view
    a code translation table to see the identifying information of each participant, and correlate it with their responses (i.e., “coded data”). You may select any type of security for your survey. Identifying information (i.e. UW NetID or email address) will not be displayed in the same view as the participants’ responses.
  • Anonymous: No identifying information will be collected. If you select this option, WebQ will set the security to the anonymous security setting “Anyone,” and you will not be able to change the security setting later. Selecting anonymous also means that participants will not be able to save a survey and come back to finish it later, change their responses after they have submitted the survey, or view their responses again at a later date. They will be able to submit the survey multiple times. You will have no way of tracking who has completed your survey. If you select to send out reminders, they will go to everyone on the email list you provide, even if they have already completed the survey.
Once you select to create a confidential or anonymous research survey, you can not change this setting and keep the same survey URL (Web address). If you realize that you need to change your security options and have communicated this change to the Human Subjects Division, you can copy your survey, and change the confidential or anonymous status of the survey during the copy process. The copied survey will have a different survey URL. Copying a survey does not copy survey results.

After you have created the research survey, you can add your questions, select a security setting, create email announcements and reminders. Please note that you cannot make any question required — or if you do, you must include a “no answer” or “skip question” answer choice for participants who wish to opt out of that specific question.

We recommend that you pilot your survey and then view and download your results, in order to make sure that the data gathered meets your expectations, and that you can perform the desired analysis. Remember that a piloting process that uses human subjects may itself require HSD review; if in doubt, consult with HSD.

Note that even when the survey is made confidential rather than anonymous, it is possible to delete all data and identifiers from WebQ after downloading only the survey response data. This procedure can be useful when it is necessary to have more control over who takes the survey. Deleting identifier tables from WebQ without downloading them means that the data becomes effectively de-identified after some brief, specified period of time. This can minimize the window of vulnerability for breaches of confidentiality.

Determine if You Need to Obtain Demographic Information

Some research projects require that you collect demographic or other information that you do not want connected with the participant’s responses. For example, if you will be providing an incentive, such as entering participants in a drawing, you will need to gather their contact information.

To obtain demographic information, create two separate surveys, one in which you gather data for your research project, and the other in which you ask for the demographic information. Then, create a link to the second survey on the confirmation page of the first survey. After providing their responses, participants will be able to open the second survey to provide contact information.
The results for each survey are stored separately in WebQ. This allows you to collect information about the participants while maintaining the anonymity of their answers to the research survey. Learn more about customizing the confirmation page.

This could also be done in the other direction: that is, the Information Statement and demographic information could constitute the first (confidential) phase of the survey, with a link taking consenting respondents to a second (anonymous) phase. In this case, however, although the two items would not be linked as far as the researcher was concerned, a link could still be retrieved from internal Catalyst administrative records. For some studies, this difference could make for a significant difference in the review.

Apply for and Receive Human Subjects Division Approval

Once you have planned the online survey, you are ready to submit your research survey for review to the HSD. In your application, make sure you mention that you are using WebQ to administer your online survey. Because the Human Subject Division has already approved WebQ as a research tool, you will not need to describe technical details about WebQ in your application. Here is some information related to WebQ that you will need to include in your application:

  • Include a printed copy of your survey, and the link to the online survey.
  • If you are planning to send out email announcements and reminders about your survey, include the text of your messages. WebQ can send these announcements and reminders to a list of email addresses that you provide.
  • Describe how you will provide the information statement to participants and include a printed copy of the statement.
  • Request and rationale for waiver of documentation of consent.
  • If you are planning to direct participants to a thank you or custom confirmation Web page, include a copy of your Web page or the content of the page. WebQ can direct survey participants to a confirmation or thank you Web page after they’ve submitted responses. To do this, in the participant experience settings for your survey, customize the content of the confirmation page, and include the link.
  • Demographic questions, if applicable.
  • Description of how the information statement will be provided to participants.
  • Documentation of whether the survey is confidential or anonymous (include a printed copy of the survey summary page), and an explanation of any window of limited identifiability that may be built into the project.
  • If a pre-determined email list will be used, and if so, how these addresses will be obtained.
  • If participants will have the option of skipping questions or if all or some questions will be required.
  • Who will have access to the survey data (print out of any associated collaboration group(s), and the privileges assigned to the group(s)).
  • If survey results will be viewable by participant, question, or both.

Administer Your Survey

Once you have received approval from HSD, you are ready to administer your research survey. Publish your survey to make it available to participants. Publishing the survey will also trigger WebQ to send email announcements to participants, if you have selected to do so. If participants have technical difficulties taking the survey, please have them send an email to

View and Download Your Results

After participants have responded to your survey, you can view or download the results. WebQ provides online views of results by participant or by question, and provides simple statistics, such as frequency, mean, mode, and median. If you download the results, be sure that the data is stored securely on your local computer or network.

WebQ for Research Checklist

Review the checklist to make sure you have completed all of the steps required to conduct WebQ research involving human subjects.