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Online Surveying Tips - Using SurveyMonkey

SurveyMonkey is one of many online survey tools that researchers' use to collect surveys from study participants. SurveyMonkey has recently changed their web site, and provides some new tutorials and information on how to use the survey tool. However, it is important in research to understand how the data is collected and stored, to protect participants confidentiality and anonymity.

As a researcher, it is YOUR responsibility to protect the privacy and confidentiality of your subjects. You must follow the guidelines which were approved by the IRB. If you plan to make any changes in how you collect or store your data, please contact your advisor or the committee first. This web page was made to help you locate information on how to use SurveyMonkey, one of the survey tools commonly used in research.

You may want to try to visit one of the SurveyMonkey Tours , to learn how = to use the tool properly. Make sure to review all of the manuals and understand how to use the tool before implementing the tool in your study. You actually own the data you collect in the survey. Additional tutorials are available on the Help Center pages.

SurveyMonkey Security and Privacy Policies

The SurveyMonkey web site contains information on their Privacy Policy and Security Statement. But this information is about what SurveyMonkey does with your data. You still have to manage the privacy policy for data which you actually collect and inform your users.

SurveyMonkey has security of the data which is stored on their servers. However, SurveyMonkey does not guarantee security at 100%. "Despite best efforts, no method of transmission over the Internet, or method of electronic storage, is perfectly secure. Therefore, we cannot guarantee absolute security. If SurveyMonkey learns of a security breach or potential security breach, we will attempt to notify affected users electronically so that they can take appropriate protective steps. SurveyMonkey may also post a notice on our website if a security breach occurs."

So, that means that it's important to consider the risk when putting surveys online. Try to avoid putting any information that might identify individuals such as IP address. Some users may keep the same IP address all the time, and others may use an internet service provider who changes the IP address.

How to Secure Your Survey during Data Collection

There are tutorials available such as collecting secure data and privacy best practices .

This tutorial includes tips on creating a privacy policy for your survey. One important factor would be to encrypt the personal information in the survey. The survey link uses https:// instead of http://. The "s" represents SSL, or secured sockets layer, a technology used in the process of encrypting data on the web as it is sent from computer to computer. You can learn more about SSL on the SurveyMonkey web site. * Important. SSL is available with the Professional accounts only.

HIPPA - Health Data - Personally Identifiable Health Information

If your study will be collecting any personally identifiable health information as defined by HIPPA, you may now be able to use SurveyMonkey. SurveyMonkey does support the ability to collect PHI at this time but only if you use a HIPPA-enabled account. HIPPA is the law for regulation of health care information and privacy.

Remember that you should not use another person's account with SurveyMonkey. Other researchers should not have access to your data, unless they are specifically defined within the research proposal approved by the IRB.


SurveyMonkey can be set up with a secure web link, SSL with https://, to collect surveys anonymously. You can place the link on a web page or in an email. You can also use a popup window to be opened when a visit comes to your web pages. But other types of collectors are not anonymous. Email invitations can track users. Learn more about making a survey anonymous.

  • Are my survey responses anonymous and secure?: Learn more
  • How to create a Web Link Collector to your survey?: Learn more
  • How to create an Email Invitation collector: Learn more
  • How to use the Facebook Connect: Learn more
  • How to embed/popup a survey in a web page: Learn more

The key is to make sure you follow the procedures above, when you create your collector. Make sure to enable SSL if any information in the survey is private or needs to be anonymous. If you are not sure it does, talk to your advisor or contact one of the members of the IRB.