Professional Expectations of Survey Users

When you administer a survey to youth, you assume professional responsibilities for appropriate conduct in collecting, storing, and using young people’s data. These responsibilities include:

  • Protecting the safety, health, and welfare of all study participants;
  • Knowing and complying with relevant state, federal, or other applicable laws;
  • Following procedures to ensure the quality and integrity of the results; and
  • Performing all responsibilities with honesty, integrity, and fairness.

Survey purchasers will receive a detailed user manual that will offer procedures, guidelines, and tools to help you follow these professional standards. Here are key obligations you have as a survey administrator, along with recommendations for where you can access additional information, if needed:

  • Ethical research practices—Follow the requirements of your institution, state, country, or funder for appropriate conduct of human subjects research. These standards address how people are fully informed about the study and its purpose, their rights when completing the study, and issues of confidentiality. More information:
    • Extensive information on protection of human subjects is available from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.
    • Access the National Institutes of Health’s free online training on ethical issues in research with human subjects, including children and youth
  • Seek appropriate permission for youth to participate—You will need to seek consent from parents for anyone under age 18 to participate in the study. The type of consent needed will depend on how you are conducting your study and the specific requirements of your organization, state, or funder.
  • Understand the survey and its appropriate use—We will provide you with the information you need to understand the survey and how to administer the survey effectively.
  • Create conditions for completing the survey honestly—The quality of your results will depend heavily on young people feeling comfortable and taking the time to complete the survey thoughtfully and honestly. Our administration manuals guide you in setting these conditions.
  • Confidentiality—You are expected to protect the confidentiality of individual participants’ results by giving youth privacy when completing the survey, securing the data from completed surveys so that only those who are authorized have access to it, and ensuring that individuals’ responses cannot be identified from group results. We will offer you guidance in ensuring confidentiality, and our reports do not show data for samples that are so small that individuals who completed the survey might be identified based on the survey results.
  • Reporting—Youth, parents, and other stakeholders have a right to receive timely reports on combined results (unless circumstances demand that results be withheld). The report you receive based on your survey will provide the information you need to fulfill this expectation.
  • Copyright—Survey users are expected to uphold Search Institute’s copyright of the DAP and related materials by utilizing it only within the terms of the purchase, not altering the survey in any way, and not permitting unauthorized use of the survey by any other organization or individuals. This expectation of honoring copyrights is true for any survey you use.

Though some of these ethical expectations may seem inconvenient, they have been established in the professional research community as a foundation to both protect the young people who are involved and to increase confidence in and credibility of the research findings.

NOTE: This guidance was developed by Search Institute based on the following professional standards: American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, and National Council on Measurement in Education (1999). Standards for educational and psychological testing. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association. It does not supersede any requirements you must meet within your own organization, state, or professional association.