GVSU Office of Institutional Analysis

Surveying GVSU Students & Personnel

Procedure for use of e-mail addresses for human subjects research:

GVSU encourages sound research by and about its students, faculty, and staff, but also respects the privacy and valuable time of those constituencies. Electronic mail presents a powerful and easy means of contacting potential participants for research, but that ease creates a potential for invasive or overwhelming contact by researchers. The following statements establish the conditions under which the university will provide support for research efforts that involve mass e-mails to students, faculty, or staff.

  1. Requests for e-mail contact for the purposes of survey, interview, or focus group research should be directed to the Office of Institutional Analysis (OIA). Please send a brief description of the proposed research, including the population(s) that you wish to contact, the subject and nature of the research, and the timing of contact (including any follow-up contacts).

  2. OIA will review requests in consultation with the Office of the Dean of Students and/or the Provost's Office (depending whether contact is requested with students, faculty, or both). Requests will be reviewed for compliance with FERPA and university policy. Consideration will also be given to issues of timing, burden on respondents, and overlap with other research projects.

  3. Research projects must be approved (or deemed exempt) by HRRC. OIA approval does not imply HRRC approval. However, OIA will provide a letter expressing its intention to provide support for e-mail contact, which will be useful in support of the HRRC proposal.

  4. Research on small, clearly-defined groups that have a GVSU employee responsible for that group's oversight does not need to be approved by OIA. For example, a teacher can approve a survey of his/her class, a coach could approve a survey of his/her squad, etc. These projects do still need HRRC clearance.

  5. The university encourages the use of random sampling to reduce the burden of requests on individual invitees. Researchers need to present a compelling rationale if they intend to contact entire populations (e.g. all faculty, all undergraduate students, etc.)

  6. The university will not release email addresses or other individually identifiable information directly to researchers. Instead, researchers’ messages will be sent directly by the university's Information Technology department. Messages can be customized to appear to come from an address specified by the researcher. After the contact is fully approved, the researcher must provide the following to OIA:
  1. the exact text of the message to be sent;
  2. the text to appear in the subject line;
  3. the address to use as the sender (this is where replies - automatic or otherwise - will be routed);
  4. the text label for the sender (e.g. “John Doe” rather than doej@gvsu.edu);
  5. evidence of HRRC approval.

Please allow at least one week between the submission of all required information and the date the first e-mail message is to be sent.

Page last modified January 29, 2015