Surveys in Ethica

A common data source in Ethica is Survey Responses which allows you to ask surveys from your participants during the study. You can define as many surveys as needed for your study. To create a new survey, navigate to Design -> Surveys in your study and click on Add New Survey button. This will create a new survey and takes you to the Ethica Survey Editor where you can program your survey.

Programming a new Survey in Ethica using Survey Editor UI

For each survey, you should configure a few items:

  • You need to specify when, during the participation period, Ethica should ask the survey from the participant. In other words, when the survey should be triggered. We discuss that in the Triggering Logics section.
  • You need to specify how much time participants have to respond to the survey, as explained in the Sessions and Expiry Time section
  • You need to specify how the participant should be notified about the survey, how many reminders they should receive (if any), and when. We discuss this in the Notifications section.
  • And of course, you need to enter the questions you want to ask and their flow.

Triggering Logic

Triggering Logic specifies when a survey should become available to the participant to respond. For example, if you want to ask participants every day about their experiences throughout the day, you can define a Triggering Logic that triggers the survey every evening between 6 to 7 pm.

You can add one or more Triggering Logics to your survey. For example, you can define a survey that is triggered every day at 6 pm, and also when the participant is been in proximity to a given Bluetooth Beacon. To do so, simply click on Add Triggering Logic and then select the type of triggering logic you want to add:

Adding a New Triggering Logic for Your Survey

Ethica supports 5 types of triggering logic which we explain below.


Eligibility triggering logic specifies that the survey should be triggered when the participant is trying to join the study, and can be used as part of the eligibility screening process.

Adding Eligibility Triggering Logic

When using this triggering logic, you should specify an eligibility criteria which the participant has to meet in order to be allowed to join the study.


User-Triggered triggering logic specifies that the participant can respond to the survey any time they want, as many times as they want. When you add this triggering logic to your survey, Ethica app will add a button to the participant's home screen, and the participant can tap on this button at any time to trigger the survey.

An example of this is a survey that asks participants to report an stressful situation. You can create a survey with a user-triggered triggering logic with the button caption set to I feel stressed. This will add a button to participant app's home screen, with the specified caption,, and participants can tap on it any time to launch the survey and complete it.

User Triggered Surveys in Ethica App for Android


Time-Triggered triggering logic specifies a time pattern and triggers the survey based on that. Examples are:

  • 10 days after the start of the participation, at a random time between 8 am to 9 am.
  • Every Monday at 6 pm.
  • 4 hours after they joined the study.

Time Triggering Logic for Ethica Survey

Ethica will trigger the survey at the specified time and allows participants to respond to the survey.


Proximity-Triggered triggering logic is used in combination with Bluetooth Beacon data source, and specifies that a survey should be triggered during or after the participant has been in proximity to a certain type of beacons. Therefore, to use this triggering logic, you need to include Bluetooth Beacon data source in your study as well.

Bluetooth Beacon data source continuously monitors the surroundings and records the proximity of any beacon that belongs to the study. A proximity-triggered triggering logic will use the collected data and analyze them on the phone to detect whether it should trigger the survey or not.

Proximity Triggering Logic for Ethica Survey


Dropout triggering logic is used to trigger the survey when the participant decided to drop out of your study. This is the last survey a participant will respond to, as after this she will be considered as dropped out of the study and the remaining surveys will not be sent to her.

Dropout Triggering Logic for Ethica Survey

Manually Triggering a Survey

The triggering logics explained above allows you to determine when a given survey should be triggered, whether automatically by Ethica or directly by the participants. Still, there might be situations that you want to trigger a given survey to one or more participants manually right now.

To do so, you can go to the Researcher Dashboard and navigate to the Design -> Surveys page. Then click on the survey you intend to trigger right now, and click on Release Now. This will open the Release Survey dialog:

Researhcers Manually Triggering Ethica Survey

In the Release Survey dialog, select the ID of the participants which you want to triggering the survey to them, and press Release Now. This will send a message to the participant's device and asks it to trigger the survey.

Note that while other triggering logics work even when the participant is offline, manually triggering a survey requires the participant to be online in order to receive the request for triggering the survey. Even when the participant is online, the survey might not be triggered right away. Manually requesting the participant's device to trigger a survey is done via a technology called Cloud Messaging. Due to technical reasons, cloud messaging works as a best effort, rather than a guaranteed immediate delivery. This means that when you try to trigger a survey, in most cases (more than 90% of the time) the participant will receive the survey right away, assuming they are currently online. But it some cases they may not receive the survey.

Sessions and Expiry Time

Every time a survey is triggered for a given participant, at a given time, Ethica creates a Session for it. Therefore a session can be uniquely identified by the combination of the following:

  • The ID of the participant.
  • The ID of the survey.
  • The time the survey was triggered.

A session will store the participant's responses to the survey questions, and uploads them to the server when it's completed. A session is started when the survey is triggered, and ended in one of the following cases:

  • The participant finishes the survey and presses the Submit button.
  • The participant decides not to continue with the survey anymore and press the Cancel button.
  • The expiry time of the survey is reached and the survey is expired.

The third case only happens if you define an Expiry Time for your survey. By default, a survey session does not expire and remains active on participant's device until it's completed or canceled by the participant. In some cases, you may want to give the participant a certain amount of time to respond to the survey. In this case, you can set a Expiry Time for the survey. In this case, Ethica allows the participant to respond to the survey within that time window, and if they don't, it will mark the survey as Expired and uploads the session to the server.

Setting Expiry Time for the Survey

Note that at any given time, a given participant can only have one active session for a given survey. If you configure your survey's triggering logic such that a new session is triggered while there is currently an active session, Ethica will dismiss the new session without presenting it to the participant, and uploads it as Blocked. You can read more about blocked surveys in the Survey Reference Documentation.


When a survey is triggered automatically by the Ethica app and a session is created for it, you should also notify the participant about the survey and ask them to complete it. In order words, if your survey is triggered via one of the following triggering logics, you should notify the participant about the new survey:

  • Time-Triggered triggering logic; or
  • Proximity-Triggered triggering logic

To do so, you can simply add one or more notifications to your survey. In the Survey Editor click on Add Notification and select the type of notification you want to add. For each notification, you need to specify the content of the notification, and when it should be sent to the participant:

Add Notifications to the Survey

You can send a notification either as an in-app notification, or via an SMS (a text message), or via an email. Sending SMS notifications require the participant to have a validated phone number with Ethica. Similarly, sending email notifications require the participant to have a validated email address with Ethica. Regardless of how you send the notification, it will contain a link to the survey, and when the participant taps on that link, the Ethica app will be opened and they will be taken to the survey where they can respond to it.

Add In-App Notifications to the Survey

For each notification, you can also specify when it should be sent, by setting the time offset relative to the survey triggering time. The offset value can be anything between 0 to the expiry time. If you set the offset to 0, Ethica will notify the participant right after the survey is triggered. You can set the offset value to a later time, in order to send reminders to participants to complete the survey. If the participant completes the survey earlier than the offset value you have specified for the notification, Ethica will not send that notification anymore.

Add SMS Notifications to the Survey

Note that if a survey is triggered while the participant is interacting with the app, you don't need to notify them about the survey. They are already in the app and can see the survey. Therefore, if a survey is triggered via the following triggering logics, it does not need a notification:

  • Eligibility Triggering Logic: In this case, the participant is currently in the Ethica app trying to register in the study, when the survey is presented. Therefore no notification is required.
  • User-Triggered Triggering Logic: In this case, the participant has just tapped on the survey's triggering button on the app's home screen. Therefore they don't need to be notified about the survey.
  • Dropout Triggering Logic: This happens when the participant goes to the app and chooses the option to drop out of the study. In this case, the participant is currently in the app and doesn't have to be notified about the survey.