Survey Policy

This guidance addresses the availability of survey software, survey administration, and survey recruitment and replaces the previous USA Survey Policy, and provides guidance for those who wish to send blanket requests for survey participants to the university community.

The Office of Institutional Effectiveness (OIE) is committed to protecting the privacy of all individuals who participate in our research, evaluation, and assessment activities. We adhere to the following principles of **anonymity** and **confidentiality**:

  • Anonymous means that we do not know or reveal the identity of the respondents. We do not collect personally identifying information, such as names, phone numbers, email addresses, or IP addresses, that could link the responses to specific individuals.
  • Confidential means that we know but do not disclose the identity of respondents to anyone else. Data is only reported in aggregate form, so no individual responses can be identified.

**Please note that responses to open-ended survey items may include information that could identify a respondent. To guard against this, respondents should not include any personally identifiable information in comments to open-ended survey items.**

We respect all respondents and ensure that their participation is voluntary and informed. We also comply with all standards for conducting research, evaluation, and assessment in higher education.

The Survey & Research Recruitment Policy is available in the University Policy Library.

If you have questions or would like assistance, please email


Survey & Research Recruitment

1. Purpose
The policy aims to ensure high-quality and useful surveys, ensure the safety of data collection and usage, and protect university community members from “survey fatigue” due to factors such as survey volume and redundancy.


2. Applicability
This Policy applies to University General Division (campus), including any individual or group such as faculty, staff, student, student organization, or non-USA researcher or agency that wishes to administer a survey instrument via a University email account to all USA students, faculty, staff, parents, and/or alumni bodies.


3. Definitions
Directly: to a university-issued email address.

Institutional Review Board (IRB): An administrative body established to protect the rights and welfare of human research subjects recruited to participate in research activities conducted under the auspices of the institution with which it is affiliated.

Institutional survey: tools used to inform priorities, goals, compliance, practices, policies, procedures, operations, or other decision-making processes of the university and include one or more broad populations or targeted specific subgroups of the university community.

Population: students or personnel in one demographic group or sub-group, academic department, college, academic support unit, or university community member (e.g., alumni, applicants for admission, etc.).

Survey Instrument: tools used to gather qualitative and/or quantitative information from human subjects to make inferences about a target population.

Survey research: administering surveys to collect research data; statistically analyzing survey data to draw meaningful research conclusions.

University community: university administrators, faculty, staff, and students.


4. Policy Guidelines
The Office of Institutional Effectiveness (OIE) will act as a clearinghouse for requests to distribute surveys via email (e.g., the digest or directly to email addresses) to all faculty, staff, administrators, or students at the University. Regardless of the purpose, all surveys distributed via the Daily Digest require prior approval from the OIE.

4.1  Policy for Survey Research

Surveys designed for human subject research purposes as defined by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) are subject to the OIE regulations only if they are to be distributed via the Daily Digest. In addition, those who wish to distribute surveys for human subject research must comply with all regulations defined by the Institutional Review Board.

4.2  Policy for Surveys for Continuous Institutional Improvement

Surveys designed to evaluate and gather feedback from an entire university group (i.e., all faculty, staff, administrators, or students) on a particular unit or about a service offered to the university community must be approved by OIE. Surveys sent to subgroups do not require approval unless prior approval is required to access student/faculty contact information (refer to the policy on data access and use).

4.3  Survey Software

The University maintains a contract with Qualtrics to provide an online survey tool to all USA faculty, staff, and students. The software can be accessed via Single Sign-on (SSO).


5. Procedures
This survey policy clarifies procedures for administering (a) surveys designed to be used for research to the university community and (b) surveys intended to be used for continuous institutional improvement.

5.1  OIE Approval for Surveys Sent Directly to the University Community

Requests to distribute surveys directly to an entire demographic group (faculty, staff, administrators, or students) of the University community under this policy must be submitted by completing the Survey Distribution Request Form at least two weeks before the desired launch date. Requests that include survey instrument design assistance from OIE may require additional time. To minimize duplicate data collection and reduce survey fatigue, surveys may not be approved for distribution during the distribution of university-wide surveys – refer to the Evaluation and Survey Calendar to see which surveys are currently being administered. Once approved for distribution, reminders may be sent no more than every three days during the survey's duration.

5.1.1  Survey Fatigue

The schedule of surveys already being administered and the number of surveys already approved for the target population during a semester will be considered in the approval and scheduling process.

      • The Institutional Effectiveness Coordinator will work with the requester to identify an appropriate window and coordinate timing to launch the survey that does not conflict with other surveys already scheduled for the same population and to maximize effectiveness.
        • Surveys are not typically approved when institutional surveys for other assessment purposes (e.g., Student Perceptions of Instruction, annual Student Engagement Survey, etc.) are being administered.
      • The Institutional Effectiveness Coordinator may work with the requester to identify an appropriate sample of the student body that will meet the requester’s needs and reduce survey fatigue to the target population.
        • Exceptions will be made for surveys with mutually exclusive samples.

5.1.2  Survey Quality

Surveys that do not meet a basic editorial quality standard (e.g., surveys that contain many typos and/or grammatical issues) are generally returned to the submitter with specific issues identified.

5.1.3  External Requests

OIE does not approve requests from external organizations to administer surveys to the university community.

5.1.4  Requests to Distribute Surveys for Research Purposes to the Entire University Community

Those who wish to administer surveys to University community members (students, faculty, staff, etc.) for research purposes should refer to section 5.2 of this policy and the Access and Use of Student & Employee Data Policy.

5.1.5  Requests to Solicit Research Participants via the Daily Digest

Those who wish to solicit research participants via the Daily Digest refer to section 5.3 of this policy.

5.2  Requests to Distribute Surveys via the Daily Digest

Requests to distribute surveys to the entire campus community via the Daily Digest can be submitted directly to Surveys sent through the Daily Digest may not require a timeframe when other university-wide surveys are not being administered. These requests will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and are subject to more lenient restrictions. Those who wish to distribute a survey via the Daily Digest will not be subject to the two-week timeline, as mentioned in section 5.1. However, please allow at least five business days for survey approval. 

5.3  Requests to Recruit Research Participants via the Daily Digest

Requests to recruit research participants from the entire campus community via the Daily Digest can be submitted directly to Requests will be reviewed by the Office of Research Compliance & Assurance. The Office of Research Compliance & Assurance will review submissions to ensure that IRB-approved language is used in solicitations for research participants. These requests will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and are subject to more lenient restrictions.

5.4  IRB Approval

IRB approval is needed for research that requires IRB review based on University guidelines. See here to determine whether your study requires IRB approval. Requests to solicit research participants must have appropriate IRB approval. When requesting authorization from OIE, please attach the relevant IRB approval documents or clearly state that your survey does not require IRB approval (and why this is the case). Other information that needs to be in place includes the researcher’s contact information and supervising professor’s information (if applicable). Please visit IRB Review ( for more information about USA IRB. Please include the entire survey when contacting the Office of Institutional Effectiveness for approval.

6. Enforcement
 The Office of Institutional Effectiveness is responsible for this policy and assuring the University of South Alabama community members are aware of the policy guidelines.

7. Related Documents