Tips for Conducting an Anonymous or Confidential Online Survey

1. Determine if your study is anonymous or confidential

An anonymous survey is one in which information obtained is recorded in such a manner that human subjects CANNOT be identified directly or through identifiers linked to study participants. In other words, your data is being submitted by unidentifiable sources. Information obtained in confidential surveys is recorded in such a manner that researchers CAN identify human subjects directly or through identifiers linked to participants.

2. Design your survey to collect desired type of data

When using an online program to design an anonymous survey instrument to be completed online by your participants, please make note of the following.

  • Do not collect participant Internet Protocol (IP) addresses (IP addresses are unique identifiers that some, although not all, electronic devices use to identify and communicate with each other). Ensure that you have disabled this feature when designing your online survey instrument. For an example of how to make this selection at SurveyMonkey.com, please click here. By designing your survey to block the collection of identifiable data, you are ensuring identities are not compromised in your research.
  • On your consent letter, inform your participants that the online survey program is not collecting identifiable information about them. Include this information in your answer to question #5 of the IRB Approval Request form as well.

If you will be designing a confidential survey instrument, please:

  • Explain the steps that will be taken to protect the information that will be collected. On your consent form or letter, give complete details about how you will confidentially maintain, or if necessary, disclose participant information. Include this information in your answer to question #5 of the IRB Approval Request form as well.
  • If doing so, indicate that you will be collecting IP addresses (or identifiable data) of those completing your online survey.