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Survey and Focus Group Policy

institutional research

In recent years, the administration of surveys and focus groups to the Boston College community has increased significantly, necessitating the development of some preliminary set of policies regarding survey and focus group management at Boston College.  While this set of policies will progress over time, initial guidelines have been established to better direct the flow, frequency, and volume of survey and focus group projects.  Please note that these policies are not meant to inhibit inquiry – we fully understand the pressure of external agencies’ demands for accountability and transparency and internal constituencies’ reliance on quality data for decision-making.  Rather, the rationale behind these policies is to improve the coordination of these inquiry efforts for the benefit of the entire Boston College community, grounded in the core principles of sound assessment practices:

  1. A project be planned and purposeful
  2. Clear and pertinent goals be addressed via a project
  3. Reliable and valid data be produced 

Due to the ease with which online surveys can be built and administered, our survey response rates are declining.  In order to curb “survey fatigue”, the campus’ survey administration cycle must be monitored and the number of surveys sent to individual Boston College community members must be limited/within reason.  These efforts help to support the principle of planned and purposeful projects.


Survey and Focus Group Requests 

Institutional Research & Planning (IR&P) manages Boston College’s administration cycle for university-wide surveys.  If you would like to request an IR&P-administered survey or focus group on behalf of your department, please complete and submit the IR Data Request Form.  Typically, two or three university-wide surveys are administered by IR&P to the Boston College community each semester and often reflect data collection requirements for compliance or accreditation reports.  Additionally, about two additional university-wide surveys are administered each semester by IR&P at the request of Boston College departments.


Participant List Requests

Not all Boston College surveys and focus groups are administered by IR&P – many times, faculty or students, for example, have the requisite skills and/or may have a project that is related to their specific area of research and thus can fully handle the mechanics of survey or focus group research.  If you would like to request an IR&P-generated participant list for your project, please complete and submit the IR Data Request Form. In order to avoid over-surveying the same sets of students (or faculty, staff), lead time for sample requests, along with random sampling, is necessary – IR&P collects the requests and based on the number and nature of requests (i.e., demographic characteristics of participants), populations can be divided into random samples thereby helping to avoid overwhelming participants and thus support the principle of planned and purposeful projects.  Three participant list request periods are available during the course of a calendar year. 


Guidelines for Participant List Request

Please note the following guidelines for requesting survey participant lists; not all participant list requests can be honored.  Please contact Institutional Research & Planning with any questions at



Timeline for Survey, Focus Group, and Participant List Request Submissions

There are three windows for IR&P-administered surveys/focus groups and IR&P-generated participant lists.  For projects that will launch…


      Submit your
Data Request Form
to IR&P by:
  Receive your
from IR&P by:
  August 15th September 15th
  November 15th December 15th
  April 15th May 15th

During the course of the year, IR&P fields many requests for research projects with these requests coming from a variety of groups, such as Boston College undergraduate students, Boston College graduate students, Boston College faculty, Boston College administrators, student researchers external to the University, faculty researchers external to the university, academic/professional organizations, local and federal governments, etc.  In order to weigh these requests in a fair manner to determine which will be a “go”, they are reviewed by Boston College’s Assessment Report Development Committee (ARDC).  Appointed by the President and comprised of a cross-sectional group of members representing Student Affairs, Mission & Ministry, and the Provost’s Office, the committee reviews requests against criteria to help support the principle that clear and pertinent goals are being addressed by the project.  

Principles 1 and 2 assist us in our efforts to generate high quality data.  They help to ensure that data collection is intentional (serves a specific purpose and is not too broad in scope) yet also efficient (coordination helps to avoid duplicative efforts, for example).  Another component which helps to support Principle 3’s notion of reliable and valid data is the use of the survey tool Qualtrics.