Periodically, the Office of Research, Planning and Assessment (RPA) sends a request to faculty and staff to participate in a survey about some aspect of Meredith College. Over time, we have had some questions about such surveys and wish to describe the different types of surveys that RPA develops and deploys, namely (1) open, (2) confidential, (3) anonymous and (4) combination surveys. Each of these survey types has a different level of privacy associated with it. The email invitation and introduction to every survey sent out by RPA explicitly states what level of privacy is afforded to the respondent.
Open surveys are those where names are recorded and information may be shared with others. For instance, many faculty and staff recently completed the Child Care Survey, where it was important to know who had responded in particular ways, so that people could be invited to a follow-up focus interview, depending on the type of child care desired. Open surveys are intended to gather information given by different categories of person, and as needed, to interact with them in some way afterwards.
RPA has not recently deployed any confidential surveys to staff, but we do typically use these for student surveys. In this type of survey, we record the name of each respondent, but only share results in aggregate form with administrators or the person(s) who developed the survey. Respondent’s names are recorded in the rare event that there is a need to contact the person, such as in the case where they indicate an issue that we are required to follow-up by federal law, such as a statement about sexual abuse or an expression of harm to self or others.
Most of the surveys that RPA sends out to faculty and staff fall into the category of anonymous, such as the recent Employee Satisfaction Survey. When we make a survey anonymous, no names are recorded in our software system (Qualtrics), and there is no way of tracing a name to any particular response (unless the respondent self-identifies in the comments section, of course). RPA provides an aggregate report to the person(s) deploying the survey. The survey software independently keeps track of the mailing history and will email reminders, if needed. This function allows us to send targeted reminders while ensuring the anonymity of individual responses.
The three types of surveys described above are often used in combination with an optional disclosure of name. For example, a survey that is confidential or anonymous may ask the respondent to input their name and contact information in order to participate in a follow-up activity or incentive drawing. Such input is always optional, and the survey taker’s identity is detached from his/her responses, except in the narrow context of the specific question.
If you have any questions about surveys please contact Dianne Raubenheimer or Dilnavaz Sharma in the RPA Office.
—Submitted by the Office of Research, Planning and Assessment