Self-reported data, whether as surveys or ecological momentary assessments (EMA for short), is the cornerstone of almost all research studies involving human behaviour, and hence its an important component in Ethica platform. Each study in Ethica can have zero or more surveys of different types, asking different questions under different conditions.
A survey can be used for different purposes such as:
- Determining whether participants are eligible to join a study or not
- Collecting baseline or follow-up responses (such as demographic information)
- Capturing the reasons participants decide to leave the study
- Collecting participant's input during the study.
A survey also can be released in different ways, such as researcher explicitly sending surveys to all or some participants, or automatically at a specific time or based on other contextual data collected via sensors, or simply by participants clicking on a button in the app. In this section, we explain how to define a survey for a study and what options are available for each type of survey.
A survey in Ethica is a set of one or more questionnaire which is used for different purposes, such as determining whether an individual is eligible to joining a study, collecting one-time response at the start or end of the study, and so on. The purpose of the survey defines its type, which is described in Survey Types section in details.
The most important difference between surveys in Ethica and other survey tools is that each survey in Ethica consist of one or more questionnaire, and questions are included as part of a questionnaire which in turn is part of a survey, rather than directly in a survey. Hence participants receive a questionnaire (as opposed to receiving a survey) and respond to it in one session.
The reason behind this structure will become more clear throughout this section. In short, dividing a survey into one or more questionnaire allows creating surveys with one context analyzer and multiple questionnaires where each questionnaire is intended for a specific context. Therefore the context analyzer can analyze participant's current context and decide which questionnaire has to be released to the participant if any. For example, a survey on physical activity habits can include two questionnaires, one for exercise in open space and another for exercise in closed environments. The context analyzer for this survey can monitor participant's location and physical activity, and if it detected that participant is exercising in a park it can ask the first questionnaire, while if it detected the participant is exercising inside a building, it can ask the second questionnaire.
At the moment Ethica is only capable of presenting the surveys to participants through Android and iOS smartphones. Surveys cannot be presented via the web.
In order to create a survey, you need to provide a JSON document, representing the format and content of the questionnaires included in this survey. We are currently working on an interactive survey designer, which we hope to be completed shortly. Even after completion, we will keep the option available to create or modify surveys via JSON as it offers a great level of flexibility. Additionally, using a text-based document to describe the survey allows easily creating and managing multiple versions of the survey in parallel, which might be necessary for some studies.
The JSON document defines survey attributes, questionnaires, pages, questions, and potential answers, together with each of their attributes. A valid survey JSON file is required to meet the specification defined in the Ethica Survey Schema.