Data Collection Through Surveys Policy

Purpose and Need

The goal of the policy is to ensure efficiency, accuracy, accountability and consistency in the administration of surveys and data collection efforts at WMU. This policy is intended to:

  • eliminate unnecessary and duplicate data collection efforts, thus reducing survey fatigue;
  • improve the response rate and quality of results for all data collection projects;
  • alert departments and researchers to existing available data (where appropriate);
  • ensure that collected data is valid, reliable, and secure;
  • ensure that data collection projects do not violate privacy or confidentiality rules or run counter to any stated University policies;
  • promote the effective use of University resources.

The policy primarily involves administrative surveys, but it may also apply to a small number of large research surveys. In the cases where research surveys are involved, this policy does not replace existing Human Subject Institutional Research Board (HSIRB) requirements, but will help coordinate the timing of the survey in an effort to maximize response rates and robust data collection.

Policy Elements


Western Michigan University value thoughtful reflection, collaboration, planning and evaluation as essential for meeting the changing needs of those we serve. Administrative surveys are important tools for collecting information used to inform administrative decision-making as part of the evaluation process.

Reason for Policy

When conduction surveys that target university constituents, the university strives to improve survey quality, reduce redundancy and over-surveying, and collect information that informs the university in a coordinated manner.


  • Administrative Survey: Any organized effort to collect information from individuals who comprise a significant proportion of the population of interest in an attempt to improve institutional, divisional, or departmental effectiveness. Administrative surveys may target any part of the university community (students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, or other persons of interest) and may address such topics as academic, personnel, management or environmental issues.
  • Research Survey: A systematic investigation, including research development, testing, and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalized knowledge. Research also includes other scholarship in which new knowledge or creative works are generated for the purposes of this policy. Often, in the conduct of research, data collection occurs through the use of surveys to a significant proportion of the population of interest. Please refer to the WMU Human Subjects Institutional Review Board for more information.

Policy Statement

In order to accomplish the goals of the university for informed decisions and evaluation, surveys shall be conducted as approved by the Survey Coordination Committee. Surveys shall be approved based on their importance to the university strategic plan and mission, dissemination and access to the information, population, timing, overall impact, and resources.

Exclusions and Special Situations

The following surveys do not need to be reviewed by the Survey Coordination Committee:

  • Surveys focused on a small, defined population (e.g. faculty research surveys, assigned classroom course work, focus groups, participants' event evaluations or point-of-service surveys targeting specific users, course evaluations, survey of business managers, etc.).
  • Surveys that are distributed in public places (and don't utilized directory information in their method of distribution).
  • Surveys that have been approved by the HSIRB (including all dissertations and theses). Exception: A research survey that targets a significant portion of the university community. In this case, the survey originator must consult with the Survey Coordination Committee to determine the most appropriate time for administrating the survey in an effort to maximize response rates and robust data collection.

The following surveys do need to be reviewed by the Survey Coordination Committee:

  • Surveys that would be administered to employees in more than one department or division.
  • Requests from external (non-WMU) parties to survey WMU students, staff, faculty, and/or other university constituents. These surveys must have a WMU sponsor and the external party must be under contract with WMU that defines personal data and e-mail security or under a formal grant agreement.
  • Surveys that are referred to the Survey Coordination Committee by the HSIRB.
  • Surveys for which contact information is needed from IR, HR, IT, etc.
  • In addition, when a survey described in previous lists targets a significant portion of the university community, regardless of the purpose, the survey originator must consult the Survey Coordination Committee to determine the post appropriate time for administering the survey.

Survey Coordination Committee

The Survey Coordination Committee will be co-chaired by the Associate Provost for Assessment and Undergraduate Studies and the Director of Student Affairs Strategic Planning and Assessment. The other six committee members are comprise of a representative from Institutional Research, two faculty representative from affected colleges, a representative from the Office of Vice President for Research, a representative from the Office of Information Technology and a representative from the Office of Budget and Finance.

Who is Governed by This Policy

All university staff, faculty and students. Deliberate failure to adhere to the policy regulations may result in the suspension of survey privileges and other penalties that may be appropriate.

Who Should Know This Policy

Any individual that is interested in conducting a data collection initiative through a survey on a significant portion of the university's constituents. In the case of an outside entity, the university contact will submit to the Survey Coordination Committee.


Document action

Reviewed by: Research Policy Council, March 2015

Approved by: IT Executive Advisory Board, March 2015