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Qualtrics Surveys in Research: Informed Consent in Qualtrics

The Qualtrics Survey platform lets you create digital surveys. This guide gives information on how to implement Qualtrics in research in a thorough a save way.

Usage of Qualtrix for Informed Consent

Qualtrics can be used to capture informed consent as part of electronic data collection. Below you find three different ways to set-up the informed consent procedure in Qualtrics. 

  1. Anonymous informed consent: you need consent of the participant before starting the questionnaire, but you don't need to collect any personal data (name, e-mail adress, etc). 
     
  2. Non-anonymous informed consent: if a participant signs the informed consent, the procedure is by definition not anonymous. The combination of identifiable (personal) information and additional personal information from a questionnaire imposed an enhanced risk of exposure of personal data. In order to minimize this risk, the informed consent information should be kept separated from the actual research data collection. 
    Separation of informed consent data and research data can be obtained by using two Qualtrics surveys, one for registering the informed consent and one for research data collection. The link type that you use between the first and second survey determines whether data in the second survey is collected (a) anonymously or (b) non-anonymously. 
    1. Anonymous link between informed consent and second survey: use this when you need the names of the participants for the informed consent procedure, but the data collection survey is completely anonymous and does not have to be linked back to an individual.
       
    2. Non-anonymous link between informed consent and second survey: use this when you do need to be able to link the data collection survey to an individual. Also when you collect personal data in the data collection survey, you can use the non-anonymous link. Another example are studies with an additional data collection method besides the online surveys, in which the results should be able to be linked. Follow-up studies are also a reason to use a non-anonymous link.


First step is to determine which of the three informed consent procedures you need. If you need any help, please don't hesitate to contact us. You can find step-by-step tutorials of the three different types of informed consent in Qualtrics below.

1. Anonymous Consent

If you are not required to document the consent, and the questionnaire needs no follow-up, you can use a simple Qualtrics set-up and ask the respondent anonymously for consent. The answer of the respondent can be evaluated in the Survey Flow with Branch Logic and the survey can be ended or continued depending the evaluation.

Be aware that in order to really anonymize the survey, go trough all 8 steps of this tutorial!

  1. Always use an anonymous link in the invitation for the survey to avoid the collection of identifying information such as name or email address.  Learn how to create an anonymous invitation link.
     
  2. Start the Qualtrics survey with the consent agreement question. Create a multiple-choice question with 2 answer options (I consent/I don't consent). You can add a descriptive text question before that contains the consent form, terms and conditions. Do you already have a file with the consent form (PDF/Word)? You can insert a downloadable file
     
  3. Evaluate the consent question of the participant with Branch Logic before the participant continues with the remainder of the survey. To do this, click on the gear icon and choose "Add skip logic". 

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  4. Select the choice that means consent has been given and the condition "is NOT selected". Then you can select to skip to the end of the survey.
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  5. It is important to make this question required: the participant should not be able to continue filling in the survey without answering the consent question. Do do this, select "Force response" in the question editing pane.
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  6. Now you can start adding survey questions.  You don’t even need to add a page break between the consent question and the rest of the survey – Skip Logic automatically creates it for you. Avoid questions and documents in your survey that could lead to (a combination of) data which could identify your participants.
     
  7. Use the “Anonymizing Responses” setting within Qualtrics to permanently scrub a response of identifying information before saving the data. 
     
  8. Remove data from Qualtrics to secure storage, the moment research is completed.

2a. Non-anonymous informed consent with anonymous link

In order to separate the informed consent from the collected data, you will create two surveys. In the first survey, the informed consent is requested from the participant. If the participant agrees with the informed consent, the participant can click on a link that opens the second survey. If the participant does not agree, the survey will be terminated. In the second survey (the data collection) it is important that only respondents who completed the informed consent survey can start this survey. Follow the step-by-step guide below for the implementation.

  1. Create 2 separate Qualtrics Surveys: the informed consent survey and the data collection survey.
     
  2. In the first survey, implement your informed consent procedure. Use the instructions in step 2 - 5 from the anonymous informed consent tutorial.
     
  3. Instead of the conditions in step 4, create the following conditions in the Survey Flow tab. Start by creating a branch that has the condition that the answer option 'Yes, I consent' is filled in. Then add a new "End of Survey" element.
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    Click on customize. Here instead of ending the survey, you will redirect the participant to the second survey. Use the anonymous link to the second survey, which you will create in the next step. Click here to learn how to create one. 
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  4. Now set up the data collection survey. It is important to use the HTTP Referer Verification option, so that only participants who come from the link in the first survey can access the second survey. Learn how to use this setting here.
     
  5. Now you are ready to set up the data collection survey. Be aware to not include questions and/or documents in your data collection survey that include any (combination of) data which could identify your participant, since the data collection survey is an anonymous survey.
     
  6. Ideally, both datasets should be stored in different physical locations after exporting, and have different access protocols.

2b. Non-anonymous informed consent with non-anonymous link

In order to separate the informed consent from the collected data, you will create two surveys. In the first survey, the informed consent is requested from the participant. If the participant agrees with the informed consent, the participant can click on a link that opens the second survey. If the participant does not agree, the survey will be terminated. In the second survey (the data collection) it is important that only respondents who completed the informed consent survey can start this survey. Follow the step-by-step guide below for the implementation.
 

  1. Create 2 separate Qualtrics Surveys: the informed consent survey and the data collection survey.
     
  2. In the first survey, implement your informed consent procedure. Use the instructions in step 2 - 5 from the anonymous informed consent tutorial.
     
  3. Instead of the conditions in step 4, create the following conditions in the Survey Flow tab. Start by creating a branch that has the condition that the answer option 'Yes, I consent' is filled in. Then add a new "End of Survey" element.


    Click on customize. Here instead of ending the survey, you will redirect the participant to the second survey. Use the link to the second survey, which you will create in the next step. undefined
     
  4. You also need to assign a randomized ID to the respondent, so that the first and second survey can be connected. To do this, follow this tutorial on the Qualtrics website.
     
  5. In order to pass the respondent ID to the second survey, it should be stored well. Follow step 9-14 from this tutorial in the Qualtrics website. Click Save Triggers when you’re finished.
     
  6. Now open the data collection survey. Here, we need to import the respondent ID. Follow step 3-12 from this tutorial to do so.
     
  7. In order to connect the data from your first survey to your second survey, you need to do two things: build the right link using query strings, and distribute the second survey directly from the first. You can find the tutorial here.
     
  8. Now you are ready to set up the data collection survey. Add all the data collection questions. Find more information about setting-up surveys here.
     
  9. Ideally, both datasets should be stored in different physical locations after exporting, and have different access protocols.