A survey can have one of the following four types, based on the purpose of the survey.
Each study targets certain individuals from certain demographics, and participants are required to meet these requirements in order to be eligible to participate. Traditionally study coordinators ask eligibility questions during enrollment or screening sessions, though this approach is not practical in large-scale studies. The alternative approach in Ethica is to use Eligibility surveys. An eligibility survey is a set of questions, together with a conditional expression based on the questions, which determines whether a user is eligible to participate or not. If you define an eligibility survey for your study, when a user tries to participate in the study, Ethica asks the questions specified in the eligibility survey. An example of this is shown in the image below:
After the user responds to the questions, Ethica evaluates user's eligibility against the provided conditional expression. If the expression evaluates to true, participant proceeds to the next step and is presented with the consent form. Otherwise, the participant receives a message about their ineligibility and leaves the registration process.
Each study can have a maximum of one eligibility survey, and each eligibility survey should have exactly one question set containing the questions to be asked from a prospective participant. You need to define the eligibility criteria for your survey using the Survey Editor (or set the
eligibility_criteria attribute in the survey's JSON file). The eligibility criteria is a conditional expression which can be evaluated to True or False. For more details on how conditional expressions are defined and evaluated in Ethica, please refer to Criteria and Conditional Expressions section.
Many studies are started by asking a few preliminary questions from the participant, for example about their demographic or their current perception on a specific topic. Traditionally these questions are asked during the enrollment session, though unlike eligibility surveys, baseline surveys are asked after the participant has reviewed and agreed to the consent form, and has registered in the study.
Baseline Surveys in Ethica are serving the same purpose. These questions are asked only once, immediately after participant consents to register in the study. Their responses can potentially be used to determine the questions they will receive throughout the study, or it can be used for post-analysis of the data.
Similar to Eligibility Survey, each study can have a maximum of one baseline survey which consists of only one question set. When a survey is marked as baseline survey, Ethica guarantees that participants will only answer the survey once, as soon as they participate in the study (but not earlier). The following image shows an example of a baseline survey.
While participants always have the option to leave your study by simply uninstalling Ethica app from their phone, there is no way to measure the dropout rate and further capture the reason behind the dropouts in such cases. In order to better manage study participation, Ethica provides participants with an easy option in the app to drop out of the study, if they choose to. The following image shows this option on Ethica's Android app:
Ethica automatically measures the dropout rate for participants who left the study using this method. Furthermore, you can define Exit Survey for your study to understand what changed their mind with respect to participation (e.g. the study was too much of a burden, they were concerned about their privacy, etc.). Exit surveys are only asked from participants who decide to leave the study, prior to their drop out.
Exit surveys consist of a single question set with preferably few short questions, which allows the user to provide feedback about the study, and why they decided to leave. Ethica will ask these questions when participants confirm their decision on leaving. Note that like any other survey, participants can cancel the exit survey and skip it, if they prefer to. The following image shows a sample exit survey.
Any survey asked during the study is categorized as generic survey, regardless of how many times or under what conditions they are released
A generic survey consists of two components: the triggering logic which defines when the survey should be released, and a question set which includes the questions to be asked.
The triggering logic can be one of the following types:
- User Triggered which specifies the survey can be triggered any time by participants.
- Scheduled Trigger which specifies the survey should be triggered based on a specific time schedule.
- Proximity Trigger which is used together with Bluetooth Beacon data sources, and triggers the survey when the participant's proximity to another element (e.g. another participant, a certain location, or an object) is captured.
- Advanced Trigger which refers to the complex logic programmed to leverage data from other sources in order to specify the triggering time.
Each of the above triggering logic is described in details in Trigger Types section.
A question set defines the questions which should be asked of participants when the survey is triggered. A question set can include one or more pages of questions, and each page consists of one or more questions of different types. Question sets also include necessary skip patterns, branching conditions, loops, and other attributes to define the survey flow.
While for certain surveys you can wait as long as needed for the participant to fill in their responses, in many cases you may want to limit the amount of time given to participants to finish the survey, for example to 45 minutes, 6 hours, or 2 days only. This is particularly useful for experience sampling when the survey is asking about participant's current context, and if it's not responded within a certain amount of time, the response is not valuable anymore.
For example, consider a study about tobacco consumption where all participants are smokers. You want to ask 4 times a day if they are thinking about smoking currently or not. In this case, you need to limit the time participants have so it represents their current state. You don't want them to receive 4 surveys throughout the day, but fill all of them at once at the end of the day.
In such scenarios, you can define an expiry time of the survey. When a survey has an expiry time, Ethica waits for the participant to complete the survey for the specified period, and if they fail to do so, Ethica marks the survey as Expired and uploads any respond they have provided so far (if any).
Expiry Time is only available for Generic Surveys. When you select this survey type through the Survey Editor, you can also specify the Expiry Time in minutes, as shown in the image below:
The default value, 0, indicates the survey should not expire. So it will remain forever until the participant finishes responding and submitting the survey, or cancels it explicitly. Any positive number will indicate the Expiry Time in minutes.
Manually Triggering a Survey
While each survey has a specific triggering logic, as explained above, there might be cases where the researcher needs to release a survey to one or more participants manually. For example, a participant has provided invalid responses to a survey which is supposed to be triggered only once, and researcher has to send the survey again only to this person in order to receive the correct responses.
Ethica allows any member of the research team to release a given survey, regardless of its type, to a subset of participants at any time using the online dashboard. In order to do so:
- Open your online dashboard.
- From the left panel select your study, then select Design, and then select Surveys.
- Here you can see all surveys defined for your study. You can expand any survey to see the related question sets. For example, the image below shows the surveys we have defined for our Influenza Like Illness study.
- Clicking on Release Now link on the right side of each question set will open a dialog, allowing you to select the list of participants who you want to send the survey to.
- Pick the participants and then press Release.
- Participants receive the survey immediately. If they are not connected to the Internet at the moment, they will receive the survey as soon as they get an Internet connection.