Introduction to Survey Anonymity

How to Set Up Anonymous SurveysYou’re at a new restaurant. You order your favorite meal, and 20 minutes later the server brings it to you. You taste it, and you’re whelmed – not overwhelmed, not underwhelmed, just “whelmed.” It’s adequate. It’s food. It’s something you’ll eat but not something you’ll tell your friends about.

Five minutes later (usually in the middle of your conversation with your date about the mediocrity of the food), the waiter comes over and asks how everything tastes. You give a thumbs up, and say “everything’s great, thanks” and the waiter asks you a few more questions before you shoo them away and get back to your meal.

Identifiable Surveys Are Often Inaccurate

While restaurants are an extreme example, the truth is that any survey that doesn’t guarantee anonymity will encourage people to lie. There is no incentive to tell the truth, because the truth can only have repercussions. At a restaurant, someone might spit in your food. As a customer, someone might contact you about your answers. As an employee, your employer may fire you.

Even those that are told that a survey is anonymous rarely trust the survey provider. That’s why it’s important to do everything in your power to make sure that every person that takes the survey is 100% confident that their answers will not get back to them, and will not be used against them.

Create Anonymous Surveys Using SurveyMethods

At SurveyMethods, we created our software to make it easier for you to guarantee anonymity. Part of that starts with you – you’ll need to make sure you clearly outline at the start of the survey how you’re protecting the respondent’s privacy. But to help you, we’ve created the following:

  • Anonymity Option – Of course, the best feature we have is the anonymity option. Within our software there is the option to make the survey anonymous. Once a survey is anonymous, the anonymity cannot be turned off – thus ensuring safety of all participants. While it’s possible for identifying information to be placed in survey responses, the anonymity option is one of the safest ways to field a survey with sensitive information.
  • Anonymity Banner – The anonymity option takes place behind the scenes. You still want a way to make sure that your respondents know that you’re keeping their information anonymous. That’s why whenever you select the anonymity option, you also receive an anonymity label that confirms that their data is secure. The label is a visual reminder that helps respondents feel as though their data is being protected.
  • Online Reporting – In order for you to guarantee anonymity, you’ll have to take measures to ensure that you can’t accidentally figure out who created what response. One of the best ways to do that is to create live updating online reports, but set the dates to the past. That will allow you to only look at data from a set period of time, and not view any data that was added on any given day.
  • For detailed information, read our help documentation on how to create anonymous surveys.

There are many best practices to help ensure that potential respondents feel that their data is safe. These represent only some of the ways that you’ll need to encourage accurate responses through guaranteed anonymity, and you’ll still need to use other tactics to get the right data. The anonymity options within SurveyMethods can be very valuable for getting the responses that you want, and in time you should be able to receive far more accurate analysis and avoid the “waiter in a restaurant” problem.

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