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In REDCap, a survey is a REDCap data collection form that you need to send to your participants so they can complete it themselves. In order to get a link to the form to send to your participants, you need to enable survey settings for the project and for the form itself. This what makes a project a survey project. This also means that if you're collecting your survey responses on paper, or in some other system, and your team is entering the already collected responses into REDCap, you don't need to use REDCap surveys. Same is true, if your team is conducting phone surveys and entering the data into REDCap on behalf of your participants.

Building a project using REDCap surveys is, at its base, like building all other data collection projects, plus you also have to to set up it up to send out and collect survey responses directly from your participants. This means if you will be using REDCap surveys, all the building activities that we reviewed in our Basics training and that apply to building data collection projects, also apply to building survey projects, such as developing forms, determining if your project needs a longitudinal set up, understanding how REDCap stores data and exports data, etc.

Survey Project Topics

What kinds of activities are involved in building a survey project?

Enabling the main project setting, Using surveys in this project, is like adding to your project, a very powerful toolset that is solely focused on setting up and sending out surveys, and tracking survey responses. You should expect that learning to use this toolset in the context of your research study will add to the total time and effort you'll need to get your project set up, validated and tested. 

In addition to the regular building activities covered in Basics training, you should expect to spend time on the following survey building activities:

  • Optimizing your forms to make them easy to understand and be completed by your participants on their own,
  • Deciding on and testing the more than 20 survey settings that correspond to adding survey functionality to each form the participant will be completing themselves.
  • Determining if you'll first need to obtain your participant's consent before they complete your surveys, and if so adding some time in project building time line to learn how to use REDCap for consenting your research participants.
  • Deciding on and testing the best methods to get the survey link to the participants, and by best method, we mean the method that serves the study's best interests when collecting real data over the lifetime of the study. For example, it's very easy to manually set up and send out email invitations when building and testing your survey project. But for most projects, it will effective and efficient for the study team and participants to automate email invitations. More on this later.
  • Planning to attend a drop-in for help with the more complex and less intuitive to set up survey features and for the pre-production survey review.

Why is survey training required?

Training is intended to help survey project builders jump start their learning. We review the foundational survey functionality that everyone building a survey project needs to know. We demonstrate the most commonly used survey related features. And, we share the best practices that have evolved from the many years the REDCap Team has been helping builders set up and manage their survey projects. We cover this material for general research use, so you can learn how to use survey functionality in the context of your research project.

If you haven't already completed training and will be building or managing a survey project, sign up for training.

Should I wait to complete survey training before I start building my project?

Brand new to REDCap: If the first project you build in REDCap is a survey project, it's helpful to take a break between completing Basics training and starting Survey training. We recommend you give yourself sometime to absorb the basic training material and get practice applying it in real-time, as you learn to build your first REDCap project.

Building You First Survey Project: For everyone building their first survey project, both brand new and experienced builders, we recommend you work on the following kinds of building activities to move the project forward until you complete survey training.

  • Develop, test and validate all your data collection forms, including those that you'll be enabling as surveys, which we call survey/forms.
  • On the survey/forms, require a response for each question/field that captures data required for analysis. 
  • Determine if you need to set up a longitudinal project to repeat collecting data at discrete timepoints for any of your data collection forms or survey/forms.

How do I know which survey features I should use?

One of the most important things all builders should do before they start setting up a project is to develop requirements. By requirements, we mean what are the kinds of things you want REDCap to do to help you get your survey links out to your participants and collect their responses. You'll be able to get the most out of our training and other learning resources, if you have some requirements in mind. 

Let's break down the following survey use case into some requirements (i.e. example of how a research study wants to use surveys.)

Use case for surveysInitial Requirements
Your participants need to complete a group of 4 surveys every 30 days for 3 months after enrolling in your study and every participant has different enrollment date. 

1. Participants complete the same survey 3 different times.

2. Group together 4 different surveys.
3. Track the participants enrollment date and remind the participant to complete survey each month.
4. Remind participants to finish any surveys they didn't complete before their visit.

While it's not unusual to discover some hidden or unexpected requirements as you start working in REDCap, that's largely because you discover REDCap can do something you hadn't know you could do that would help sending out and collecting your surveys. To be successful at building a survey project, it's critical to start with a list of requirements, even a short list, specific to your research study.

We will help you

We know that building a survey project steepens the REDCap learning curve. The software is feature rich in survey related solutions, but survey functionality is not always intuitive, can sometimes be confusing, and even an experienced builder needs someone to check their work. This is why we provide drop-in support to help builders use the survey functionality to set up their projects to get their survey links to their participants and collect their responses per the requirements of their project's data collection plan. We also know that because of the complexity, details and nuances of survey functionality there is a higher risk of configuring a setting in such a way that it would create a regulatory issue or technical failure, which is why we require and conduct a pre-production survey review for all surveys projects.

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