Survey Tool Selection Guide
How sensitive is the data being collected for the research study?
- Review CCS’ document on how to classify data.
- Follow CCS’ guidelines for protecting confidential data and sending restricted information securely.
- If there is any personal information or data being collected, consult with the Privacy Office at firstname.lastname@example.org to ensure there are relevant notices and privacy best practices are followed where needed.
If you are using an online survey tool for the research study, the initial location of the data storage is online or in the cloud. Most of the data analysis, however, will likely be completed outside of the survey tool, therefore you need to consider how to transfer the data. Will the data be downloaded to a computer or external hard drive, or will the data be transferred to a different cloud storage?
- At Toronto Metropolitan University, for online storage, Google Drive is available. You may wish to review the results of TMU's Google Workspace privacy assessment.
- If you will store the data on a local computer or external hard drive, it should be at least password protected, and where possible, encrypted.
- Consider how long the data needs to be kept, and aim for a minimal period. The longer the source data is retained, the higher the risk.
- If the data has been downloaded from the online tool or transferred to storage space (either online or offline), then consider deleting it from the online tool.
- Whenever possible, store only anonymous or aggregated data, instead of information about identifiable individuals. Ensure the data cannot be reidentified to the individual respondents.
Online survey providers may:
- Allow third parties to track survey participants
- Control the Terms of Service (not you or the researchers)
- Have the survey data stored outside of Canada
Be sure you fully understand what the online survey provider controls, when determining whether their service is appropriate for your needs.
The risks above can be mitigated by conducting a proper vendor risk assessment and well structured contract terms and conditions. You can consult Toronto Metropolitan CISO advice by emailing to email@example.com.
Good data collection includes capturing the perspectives of everyone, including people with disabilities and those who use assistive technologies. Creating accessible surveys is critical for capturing accurate data.
- Ensure the survey tool conforms with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (external link) at Level AA. Check the survey tool’s documentation for accessible question types.
- Consult with the university’s IT Accessibility Specialist, Adam Chaboryk (firstname.lastname@example.org) to ensure your survey tool is accessible.
Google Forms is the only available online survey tool supported by CCS. You may wish to review the results of TMU's Google Workspace privacy assessment.
Google Forms has good support for creating accessible surveys that are compatible with assistive technologies, including screen readers and speech recognition software. Here are some tips for making a more accessible survey using Google Forms:
- Be sure to add alternative text to images and closed captions for any video content.
- Choose a theme with good colour contrast between the foreground and background.
- Consider splitting longer surveys into multiple pages and enabling the progress bar.
When using an external survey tool, researchers may want to consult with the university's CISO, Privacy Officer, and IT Accessibility Specialist, especially if the data collected is considered medium to high sensitivity.
While we cannot recommend specific tools, the following are some options you may want to consider.
Please note that TMU does not have a site license for any of these tools, so be sure to check with your department to find out if you have a license available.