Things to Keep in Mind When Planning a Survey


IRB REVIEW:  To assure the protection of human subjects and to comply with federal regulations and university policy, UMBC requires that all research projects involving human subjects be reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) prior to research implementation.  More information regarding human subjects research can be found on the IRB website.  To determine if your survey activity is considered research that requires approval by IRB, click here.

An IRB will assess the research to ensure ethical treatment of participants, anonymity and/or confidentiality and plans to protect participant privacy. Below are general links useful in understanding potential issues related to survey research ethics:

AVOID DUPLICATION OF EFFORT:  Before implementing a survey, you should determine if a similar survey has been conducted on campus, or if another survey has captured similar information to that which you are seeking.  Click here for a listing and description of surveys routinely conducted at UMBC.

ACCESS TO DATA:  If you need access to student, faculty or staff contact information, or assistance in generating your survey sample, you can submit a help ticket using UMBC’s RT ticket system to request help or obtain the information.

  • For access to student information, create a new RT ticket:  Click here to download the request form.  Once completed, submit your request and upload the form to the RT system here.
  • For access to faculty and staff data, create a new ticket in “Human Resources”.

For more information about RT, including FAQs and articles, click here.

NOTE:  UMBC complies with the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). In general, FERPA serves to protect the privacy of student education records. Specifically, FERPA limits the release of any information from a student’s education record without prior written consent from the student. FERPA allows for the disclosure of those records, without consent, to school officials with legitimate educational interests. For more information on FERPA visit  For more information on the privacy and release of education records found on the UMBC Registrar’s site, click here.

IMPROVING SURVEY RESPONSE RATES: Surveys are a powerful, efficient, and cost-effective way to gather information, identify and diagnose problems, and reveal new opportunities. However, one of the biggest challenges in conducting surveys is ensuring that you get enough people to take your survey to obtain meaningful results.  Below is some general advice for increasing the response rate for your survey.

  • Given the amount of survey activity at UMBC, it is likely that students will receive multiple requests to complete surveys in any given year. There are certain times of the year, including the opening weeks of semesters, study days, and exam periods, when it is not effective to survey students.  New students should not be surveyed as they transition into the university.
  •  If possible, guarantee the anonymity of survey participants.
  • Keep your survey short and concise, with a limited number of skip patterns.
  • Provide some type of incentive for students to participate.
  • Let survey participants know how and why their participation will make a contribution.
  • Make survey results and reports available to survey participants.

For more advice on how to increase response rates for online surveys, click here.

Additional resources for creating and conducting surveys are provided in the “Useful Links” section.