Survey and Research Application

Seeking Survey Approval? 

Use the links below to see if your survey qualifies for approval by the IR Department.

Research Approval Request

Human Participant Guidelines

Survey Design Tips


SARRC (Survey and Research Review Committee)

Our mission is to review and approve research proposals, especially surveys at Tompkins Cortland to make sure that they comply with internal as well as federal and state guidelines for research with human participants. We also help provide best practices and support for potential researchers.

2020-21 committee members

Eric Sambolec, Chair
Bret Bienvenue
Carolyn Boone
Lisa Payne
Malvika Talwar
Qian Xu

Best Practices of Survey Research

It’s helpful to write down the purpose of your research. What specifically do you want to know and why? This should provide clarity as you plan and create your survey.
Look to see if other surveys or research is already available on your topic. Have any other institutions done similar research and if so, can you get some ideas from how they administered their survey? What were their results?
Besides administering a paper or online survey, you may want to consider doing in-person interviews, focus groups or using pre-existing sources that have the same type of information you are looking for. Check the TC3 institutional Research Department website to see if there may already be a survey or report that provides the information you are seeking.
If you decide that you do want to administer a survey, think about WHEN you want to administer it. Depending on your audience, you will probably want to avoid the start and end of a semester, and close to or during a holiday break. Check the TC3 Survey Administration calendar  to see if there is already another survey planned at the same time you want to conduct your survey. Be mindful that when people receive too many surveys, that may lead to survey fatigue and declining response rates.
An online survey should be open long enough so that people have sufficient time to respond - at least one or two weeks, but not too long that responses have stopped coming in and analysis work will be delayed. If you are administering an in-person paper survey try to have a quiet, relaxed atmosphere so the people who take a little longer to go through the survey don’t feel pressured to rush through just to finish.
Effective surveys either provide informative about a specific topic or gather information that will help with decision making. Do not make the survey any longer than it needs to be. Avoid asking for information that would be “nice to know,” but not necessarily useful. Refer to the document that you created that states your survey purpose - what information you are hoping to gather.
The purpose of an IRB (Institutional Review Board) is to assure the protection of the rights and welfare of the participants being researched. At TC3, the Survey & Research Review Committee (SARRC) is a formally recognized committee by the College Senate comprised of faculty and staff who work with the TC3 Institutional Research Department to handle survey approvals. Depending on the purpose of your research and ho
Once you have developed your questions, it is helpful to test you survey questions with a small group of volunteers – if possible, with the same background as your intended survey population (e.g., students, employees, etc.). If you have an online survey that uses skip logic, be sure that is tested as well. Ask your volunteers for their feedback. What is clear in your head may be unclear to others. That way you can make sure that the survey questions and response options make sense. Refer to the TC3 Survey Design Tips to avoid some common mistakes when writing survey questions.

Once you have decided that you want to administer a survey to any part of the TC3 community, here is a check list: 

  • Create a written statement about the objectives of your survey.
  • Determine how and by whom the results of this survey will be used. Will you need IRB approval?
  • Determine who will receive the survey and how.
  •  Write your survey and pilot-test the questions.  Determine who will compile the survey population, administer the survey, and handle the data analysis.
  • Determine when and how long the survey will be administered.
  • Submit a TC3 Research Approval Request.

Note that the TC3 Survey & Research Review Committee (SARRC) meets monthly during the fall and spring semesters. For your survey to be reviewed at the committee’s next meeting, submit your Survey Approval form by the 23rd of the preceding month. Within 3 business days after the committee meets, you will receive an email indicating IRB approval or non-approval of your survey application.

It is not possible to retrospectively review and approve a project once data collection has begun. If you are unsure how your data could be used in the future, err on the side of caution and submit a Research Approval form asking for IRB approval. If you would like documentation indicating that IRB approval is not needed, submit a Survey Approval form by the 23rd of the preceding month. If you have any questions, email