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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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 will be sent so that replies go to an unmonitored and secure mailbox, and will include the following text:
This message was distributed by Grand Valley State University on behalf of the investigator named above. No e-mail addresses or other personally identifiable information have been disclosed to the investigator. If you have questions or concerns about this practice, please visit
As a GVSU student or employee, you cannot be required to participate in research as part of any academic course or employment duties. Your participation in this study must be voluntary and free of coercion. You are free to refuse to participate or may withdraw from participation at any time. If you agree to take part in this study, the researchers are responsible for protecting your privacy and the confidentiality of information you provide as required by federal and state regulations and GVSU policies. Distribution of this email does not imply Human Research Review Committee (HRRC) approval of this study; the HRRC must review and approve (or deem exempt) all covered research involving human participants before a study can begin.
- After the contact is fully approved, the researcher must provide the following to OIA:
a. the exact text of the message to be sent;
b. the text to appear in the subject line;
c. the text label for the sender;
d. evidence of HRRC approval.
Please allow up to one week between the submission of all required information and the date the first e-mail message is to be sent.
Individuals with concerns about the protection of their privacy under this policy should please contact the Director of Institutional Analysis at email@example.com or (616) 331-8648.
Page last modified November 3, 2015