University Surveys

Design of the Survey Instrument and Approvals

The survey design is a very crucial step in the process. We will require a Microsoft Word (or similar text file) that contains the questions and options for implementation. Once received, your survey questions will be made available for your review. We will try to work with you to help you build questions to best match your need. For information on the types of questions that can be built, see “Question Types” below. For examples of these questions see "Qualtrics Survey Previews" below.

Prior to distribution, approval of the Office of Sponsored Projects Compliance Officer and Institutional Review Board (IRB) may be required. The IRB reviews proposed surveys to ensure they meet the ethical standards of research (see the Research Compliance Overview). Obtaining approvals must be done by the researcher.  Information about data ownership and security can be found in this white paper by Qualtrics.

Question Types:

The following is a list of some of the question types available in Qualtrics.  You can request a more comprehensive list from CITR.  We may also suggest alternative question formats during the design stage.

Multiple choice

  • Single or multiple selection (e.g. "select one of the following" or "check all that apply")


  • Multiple words, phrases, or sentences with similar answers (e.g. a rating scale ranging from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree")
  • Options include entering different answers for each questions, making the survey question equivalent to a set of different multiple choice questions

Text Entry

  • Respondents fill out text boxes ranging from short answer to essay length
  • Allows for validation: respondents can be forced to enter a number within a specific range, text that conforms to a valid e-mail address, zip code, date, or phone number, ad well as custom validation

Rank order

  • Allows respondents to rank order items (for example, least to most preferred)
  • Includes options to omit items from the ranking and placing items in separate groups prior to ranking withing groups

Drill Down

  • Allows respondents to select one answer among many when answers can be collected into groups
  • Example: select one city from a list that appears after selecting a region, selecting a state within that region, then selecting a city in that state

Qualtrics also includes branching, where a set of questions may be displayed or skipped depending on the answer to an earlier question.

There are additional question types and options not listed here.  For a more comprehensive description visit the Qualtrics help page.  CITR may also suggest question types and options during the design process.

Qualtrics Survey Previews:

The following links will open survey previews demonstrating some of the questions available in Qualtrics.  These links are similar to the ones you would receive during the design phase.

Multiple choice / matrix question examples This also includes an example of a page break and back button, questions requiring responses, and the use of graphics.

Text entry examples  These example questions demonstrate different kinds of text questions as well as formatting requirements (e.g. the text must be a number, valid e-mail address, etc.)

Rank order examples These example questions show two methods of collecting rank order data.

Drill-down example   This kind of question allows respondents to select one item out of a large list by using groups.  In this example one out of 745 U.S. cities can be selected by first selecting the region then the state.

Branching example  In this example the answer to the first question determines which set of questions the respondent will see next. Note that choosing "I have never smoked" will end the survey; you will need to restart it to see the other options.

Sample Word Document for Submitting Surveys:

Surveys should be submitted as a Microsoft Word document.  Instructions and examples for formatting question types can be found here.

Detailed directions, graphics files, or data for drill-down questions should be mailed along with the survey request form.  Make sure you include file names on the request form.

Distribution of the Survey

Online surveys can be distributed in one of two ways: 

Anonymously   Invited / E-mail

Anyone can take the survey.


Participants are invited to take the survey.  Allows more control over who can take the survey.

You are provided with a hyperlink that can be e-mailed by you to others, sent through Tele-STARS, posted on social media sites, etc.


Participants are sent a customized e-mail with a link to the survey.  Reminders for participants who have not yet responded and thank-you e-mails can also be sent.

No identifying information is collected (though this information can be collected if included in the survey questions).


E-mail addresses are automatically linked with the participants’ responses.  Additional data can be linked if sent with the original e-mail list (e.g. the participant’s full name, department, job title). An option can be selected that removes identifying information from the results.

Participants can stop and resume the survey provided they do so at the same computer and use the same browser


Participants can stop and resume the survey at any time.

E-mail Recipient List for Invited Surveys

A file with e-mail addresses must be sent to CITR (via prior to survey distribution.  This information is uploaded to Qualtrics in the comma separated value format (CSV).   There are two ways to submit an e-mail list:

  • A CSV file with the correct Qualtrics formatting. CSV files can typically be saved and opened in Microsoft Excel.  An example of a Qualtrics compatible file can be found here.
  • There are other file types that can easily be converted to CSV files.  Examples include Microsoft Excel files and delimited / fixed width text files.

Note that at a minimum the file must contain e-mail addresses.  You can add first and last names if you wish to use them in the invitation message. You can also add additional data that can be displayed in the survey, used to control branching, or saved along with participants' responses in the data files.  A header should be included along with the additional data.

Email Text

Emails sent by the survey software will contain a link to the survey.  You will need to provide a document with everything else you want included in the email.  For example, you likely will want to include a brief description of the survey.  You can also include an estimate of how long it will take, your contact information, a description of any incentive (e.g. can they win a gift card), etc.  

Reminder Emails

The system can also send out reminder emails after the initial invitations are sent out, and the email text and email subject for these can be different from the original invitation.  Reminders only go out to people who have not completed the survey.  Dates for sending out reminders can be added to the request form.

Data Gathering

While  your survey is opened for responses, you can request preliminary response counts. If the survey will be opened for an extended length of time, you can request occasional result reports. 

Survey Close and Results

A variety of reports and data files can be requested for analysis:

  • Comma separated values (CSV) file, suitable for importing into Microsoft Excel or Access
  • SPSS file
  • Extensible Markup Language (XML) file
  • HTML file (shows data as a table in a web browser)
  • Qualtrics report showing descriptive statistics for each question, in PDF, Word, Excel, or Powerpoint formats

CITR can also help guide you in making sense of the data.