Frequently Asked Questions about Online Surveys

Is it possible to have multiple versions of an online survey? Will participants be randomly assigned to one version of the survey at the start of the survey?

The best way to do this is to create multiple online surveys and use a prescreen participation restriction that is unrelated to your research. To save time, you can easily do this by copying the entire survey using the Copy Study feature, then modifying the copy as needed. As for random assignment, if there is a prescreen question asking for the last digit of the participant’s university ID number, assuming this is randomly distributed, then you can use that to easily break up the pool into random tenths by using that as a prescreen participation restriction for each version of the study.

Is there a way to post images, graphics, or videos in the online survey, so that participants can respond to questions referring to the image or video?

Yes. You will need to have the ability to post images on a webserver (most likely at your school), and know a small bit of HTML. Let’s say your graphic is located at

Put this in the place where you want the image to be displayed:

<IMG SRC="">

If you’re unfamiliar with HTML, you may want to ask your IT department for assistance with this.

You can use a similar process to post videos, but you’ll need to ask the person in charge of the webserver where you post the video for the best HTML method for linking to it, as there are several different methods to link to videos.

You cannot upload images or videos directly onto the Sona Systems server, but every university provides a facility to post content on webservers at the school. This method is better for participants as the data (images and videos are usually quite large) will be stored on the high-speed network within the university.

Can certain sections be presented for a specified period of time (e.g. 60 seconds)?

No, this feature is not offered. There are technical limitations and inaccuracies in how web browsers interact with web servers, as well as Internet latency factors that make this difficult to do.

Can I make an online study a multi-part study?

Yes, but only if it’s an external (web) study, and not an online internal survey study.

Is there a method to upload a survey into the system (from Word, Excel, etc.)?

For online survey studies, there is no method to upload the data. There is no standard format for survey data representation, so there was no format to support for uploading.

In the online survey feature, there is the ability to copy questions and sections. This may make it easier to set up the survey if many questions have the same sets of choices, for example.

When a participant is taking an online survey study, when is their sign-up actually recorded in the system?

The system will not record completion or sign-up of an online survey study until it is actually completed, or if the participant chooses to withdraw early. Participants are shown the closing text as the last step of the online survey study, just after their responses have been saved and their sign-up is recorded.

When they start the online survey study, it is noted to participants that their responses are not fully saved until they complete the study. Only then will they be properly recorded. This is for both technical and IRB reasons.

I have created my online survey and participants cannot see it. I have ensured that all the prescreen restrictions, course restrictions, and pre-requisite/disqualifier restrictions are set correctly. Why is it not showing up?

You need to set up at least one timeslot. The standard method for an online survey is to set up only one timeslot for the survey, to specify the participation deadline. If you still have problems, contact the administrator and ask them to run Check Study Configuration on your study. That will explain why a study is or is not showing up.

My online survey had 5 spaces in a timeslot, and somehow 6 people signed up and received credit. How did this happen?

This is a rare situation that occurs, usually with online surveys that take a long time to complete on a system with a high rate of study sign-ups. What happens is that all 6 people, or at least the last 2 people, started the online survey at around the same time, before any of them could finish it. The system checks at the point of sign-up to see if there are open spaces for the online survey, but does not consider someone who has already started the online survey but not finished it, as taking up one of those places. This is done just in case that person abandoned early without properly withdrawing. In this rare situation, there is no choice but to credit all participants who successfully completed the survey. It is the only fair outcome for participants. It is important to note that this situation is quite rare. It is most likely to occur when the survey is lengthy, and there are many participants vying for a limited number of available timeslots in the system.

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