I am currently an MBA student in a college in Western Europe. As part of our thesis, we need to do a piece of original research (fairly standard, I would assume). I had planned on using either Google Forms or Survey Monkey to collect the data from respondents. Apparently, the college is not happy that I use these tools, and would prefer for me to use in person interviews. This is problematical as I had hoped for a few hundred responses, which is obviously not possible to do in person.

As part of a compromise with the college, they have asked for additional ethics data on security of data, as well as ethics guidelines from other 3rd level educational institutions. A Google search does not bring up any ethical guidelines on using either tool for educational research.

My two questions are:

1) Is this a standard request, or should both of these tools be standard use for this process? 2) Are there any 3rd level educational instutions that have published ethical guidelines on the use of either Google Forms or Survey Monkey?

  • "This is problematical as I had hoped for a few hundred responses, which is obviously not possible to do in person." If you are willing to spend a few months full-time collecting data, it could very well be possible. That depends on the time reserved for the thesis and how important the data collection is in the thesis. Another possibility is to cooperate with fellow students in the data collection phase, then do different analysis on the data and each writing their own thesis.
    – dimpol
    Jan 12, 2017 at 11:03
  • Thanks for the response. I should have clarified that I am a part time student, working full time. I am also the only student in the class researching this area (leadership),while most of the others are doing IT, marketing, or finance.
    – Clauric
    Jan 12, 2017 at 11:07
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    That still makes it an issue of how many hours the college expects you to put into the thesis. If you can't put in the hours, that isn't the problem of the college. However if the time reserved for the thesis is simply insufficient to (also) collect data in person, that makes your case a lot stronger. Is it an option to just collect less data? Note that setting up in person interviews is different than setting up an online survey and the college might specifically want you to learn/get experience with the former.
    – dimpol
    Jan 12, 2017 at 11:16
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    Well, the advantage of in person interviews is at least 3-fold: first it allows you to have some control of who is filling in the interview. It is difficult to check whether someone filling in an online survey is who they say they are. Secondly it allows you to weed out people who aren't serious, it is much easier to put fake or low effort answers in online surveys. Thirdly it allows you to see how people respond to the questions. Do they interpret the question as you intended and for multiple choice, have you covered all reasonable options?
    – dimpol
    Jan 12, 2017 at 12:02
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    An alternative to this analysis would be conducting some interviews (depending on how many, maybe 50?) and running an online survey as well. You can then, using the power of statistics, compare these two data sets for equality and similarity, as well as mention the benefits and flaws of both strategies.
    – Compass
    Jan 12, 2017 at 21:48

1 Answer 1


In Australia, human research is conducted under the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research [1] released by the National Health and Medical Research Council in 2007. Since the National Statement was released, the use of online survey tools has ballooned and Human Research Ethics Committees have been forced to acknowledge their use in research projects.

I am aware that Swinburne University has released advice to its staff about the use of the platform [2]. In addition, several other universities such as Deakin and Monash require that (1) the option to collect IP addresses be disabled and (2) that the recruitment of participants be undertaken outside of the SurveyMonkey platform (that is, cut and paste the survey link onto an email that you distribute separately from outside SurveyMonkey.)

You should note that SurveyMonkey itself has sought to address its relationship to HREC and IRB requirements [3].

I hope this help, despite the more than 18-month delay in my response.

Perhaps you can update us about your experience, thereby closing the loop somewhat.

  • These days, the online survey tool will also have to abide by the GDPR if your are doing research in Europe. Best to ask your local data protection office for approval. Sep 3, 2021 at 10:19
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    @henning It's a curious situation, isn't it? The question was posted 16 months before GDPR came into force, yet the accepted answer was posted 3 months after GDPR came into force; and the question is about a Western European regulatory context, yet the accepted answer is about an Australian regulatory context. Sep 3, 2021 at 12:16
  • @Daniel Hatton yes, time for a new question, maybe. Sep 3, 2021 at 12:26

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