Start a Project
Since 1992, the Survey Research Center has helped hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students collect original survey data for their research projects. We encourage students to seek our advice early in the year they start their research work. Here are some guidelines for getting your project through each of the stages shown below:
Students should talk to their faculty advisors about formulating research projects. If your project involves the analysis of survey data, you should check first to see if the data you need have already been collected by someone else. One way to start is by checking data sets available from federal statistical agencies such as the Bureau of the Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These agencies spend millions of dollars every year on survey data collection and archives of their data sets are available on their web sites. There are also archives of public opinion data that can be accessed through the web. Please check the SRC’s Important Resources page and Princeton University’s Data and Statistical Services.
After discussing your project with your academic advisor, tell us more about your project using our online form. First time users should schedule an appointment to meet with a staff member of the SRC. During this meeting the Associate or Assistant Director of SRC will review your research project, determine the most appropriate methods to accomplish your goals and steps needed to get your project up and running.
The next step is to work with your advisor to draft the questionnaire for your survey. At this stage you can also come to the SRC for guidance on question wording, formatting, and layout. For additional advice on drafting your questionnaire, please see Chapter 6 of the American Statistical Association’s online guide “What is a Survey?”
- To comply with IRB guidelines, the first page of your survey questionnaire should function as the consent form, or as in the example below:
Note: You need to fill in the information in the brackets […]
ADULT CONSENT FORM
TITLE OF RESEARCH: [Insert study title]
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: [Insert Principal Investigator’s name]
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR’S DEPARTMENT: [Insert Principal Investigator’s Department]
Key information about the study:
Your informed consent is being sought for research. Participation in the research is voluntary.
The purpose of the research [Insert description]:
The expected duration of the subject's participation [Insert description]:
The procedures that the subject will be asked to follow in the research [Insert description]:
The reasonably foreseeable risks or discomforts to the subject as a result of participation [Insert description]:
The benefits to the subject or to others, e.g., society that may reasonably be expected from the research [Insert description]:
The alternative procedures, if any, that might be advantageous to the subject [Insert description]:
Additional information about the study:
[Describe the extent to which confidentiality of research records, including tape recordings or videotapes if applicable, will be maintained; state whether subjects’ information will remain anonymous (if there is no link to their responses and it is not possible at any point to identify the subject) or just confidential; and who will have access to the subjects’ data. Sample language is below.]
All records from this study will be kept confidential. Your responses will be kept private, and we will not include any information that will make it possible to identify you in any report we might publish. Research records will be stored securely in a locked cabinet and/or on password-protected computers. The research team will be the only party that will have access to your data.
If the research involves the collection of identifiable private information or identifiable biospecimens, insert one of the following statements:
- The subject’s information or bio-specimens collected as part of the research, even if identifiers are removed, will not be used or distributed for future research studies.
- or identifiers might be removed from the identifiable private information or identifiable bio-specimens and that, after such removal, the information or bio-specimens could be used for future research studies or distributed to another investigator for future research studies without additional informed consent from the subject.
[Specify whether subjects will be compensated and, if so, the amount. If amount will be prorated for any reason, state the amount.]
Who to contact with questions:
Principal investigator [Insert contact information for Principal Investigator here]:
If you have questions regarding your rights as a research subject, or if problems arise which you do not feel you can discuss with the Investigator, please contact the Institutional Review Board at:
Assistant Director, Research Integrity and Assurance
Phone: (609) 258-8543
I understand the information that was presented and that:
My participation is voluntary.
Refusal to participate will involve no penalty or loss of benefits to which I am otherwise entitled.
I may discontinue participation at any time without penalty or loss of benefits.
I do not waive any legal rights or release Princeton University or its agents from liability for negligence.
I hereby give my consent to be the subject of the research.
If you will consent subjects, but not obtain their signature, delete the below signature lines.
Subject’s Signature Date
Person Obtaining Consent’s Signature Date
Include if applicable:
[Example:] With your permission, we would also like to tape-record the interview. Please sign below if you agree to be photographed, and/or audio videotaped.
I hereby give my consent for audio/video recording:
In addition to your questionnaire, you will also need to submit to the IRB a copy of the letter or email message you plan to use to invite people to take your survey.
Subject: Senior Thesis Survey – Your Chance to win $50
I am a senior in the psychology department. Below is a link to a survey that is part of my research for my senior thesis. It is a short 10 minute survey about health care issues. By completing this survey you will be entered into a lottery. Four winners will be randomly selected to receive a cash prize of $50. Your participation is greatly appreciated!
Thanks for your time,
This link is unique to you. Please do not forward it.
Subject: The High School Valedictorian Project
Dear [FirstName] [LastName],
Congratulations on your outstanding academic accomplishments during high school! As valedictorian of [F4] High School you have been personally selected to participate in The High School Valedictorian Project, a groundbreaking and innovative study investigating the post-secondary school outcomes of America’s best and brightest.
Please share your experiences in our approximately twenty to thirty minute online survey by clicking [Link], a unique and secure link created just for you. Rest assured that all of your answers will be used only for scholarly purposes and will be kept completely confidential.
Your participation is critical to the success of this project. Only through your responses can we better understand this pivotal period in the life course and help future high achieving high school graduates successfully navigate it.
Thank you again for your so very generous participation.