Ethical Aspects of Survey Research


Do All Surveys and Questionnaires Require a Signed Informed Consent Form?

  • No. If the survey or questionnaire is anonymous, the research is minimal risk, and the only document linking the participant to the research is the consent form, it may qualify for a signed consent waiver. In this case, you would still need to provide participants with a consent form, but you would not need to collect signatures from participants.

Please Note: Only the IRB can make this determination.

How is Consent Obtained for Studies without Signed Consent Forms?

Consent can be implied by receipt of a returned survey or questionnaire. A survey or questionnaire may qualify for implied consent if:

  • The study is clearly explained to the participant in the consent document
  • The participant is informed that participation is voluntary
  • Contact information for the researcher, the faculty advisor (if applicable), and the IRB office is provided to the participant

Please Note: Participants must always be provided with a consent document, however, they may not be required to return a signed copy if the study qualifies for the signed consent waiver. Only the IRB can make this determination.

When is a Signed Informed Consent Form Needed?

A signed informed consent form is necessary in most cases, aside from what was described above. Signed informed consent forms must be collected when:

  • Coding of collected data (demographic or otherwise) will be insufficient to ensure specific participant anonymity
  • Collected information could be damaging to the subject

Confidentiality of Survey Research

For more information, visit the IRB's confidentiality page.