SCSRU Newsletter Vol. 21, Issue #1 – Winter 2024

Monday, February 12, 2024
by Brandon Yong

Introducing the Statistical Consulting and Survey Research Unit

The Statistical Consulting and Survey Research Unit (SCSRU) was recently formed in 2023 from the merger between the Statistical Consulting and Collaborative Research Unit and the Survey Research Centre. Our team aims to provide high-quality statistical and survey research services to the University of Waterloo community and external organizations! We offer a full suite of statistical and survey services from design consultation, data collection services, top-line data analysis, and more. Contact us for project requests or consultations to aid in survey question design, determine appropriate sample sizes and survey methods, best practices to help maximize your response rate, as well as survey data collection and analysis. If you have any questions or require more information about a consultation or project request, please contact

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IAP Partnership

A laptop and a checklist.

The Statistical Consulting and Survey Research Unit is happy to announce that our partnership with Institutional Analysis and Planning (IAP) at the University of Waterloo is still going strong. The partnership started in 2022 with the Student Experience Survey (SES), which now runs every fall and winter term. The SES was created in collaboration with the Associate Vice President, Academic, and the Associate Provost, Students. The SES is designed to be a ‘pulse’ survey, sent to undergraduate students to understand their perceptions of their academic and non-academic learning environments and experience at the University of Waterloo. Data from the survey informs programs administered by the faculties, the UWaterloo Life team, the Student Success Office (SSO), the Library, and other academic support units. Questions in the fall iteration focus on student wellbeing, perceptions of campus life and engagement in non-academic activities, while winter questions focus on academics, learning supports, perceptions of workload and academic unit initiatives. The SES has helped inform planning for all faculties and multiple departments and academic units, such as the Office of Equity, the Sustainability Office, the Library, the Stratford School, and Campus Wellness. The Winter 2024 iteration will introduce questions of interest for the Center for Extended Learning and the Standing Committee on New Technologies, Pedagogy, and Academic Integrity. If you are interested in viewing the key results, please visit Survey reports are created for internal planning and quality assurance purposes only. If you would like to request a copy of the aggregated results, please contact

We are looking forward to continuing our work with IAP in the coming years as we begin work on the graduate version of the SES. This survey is still in the early stages of development; however, the SCSRU and IAP plan to work with Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs to create a survey that will cater to their needs and help better inform their planning in the coming years. If you are UWaterloo staff or faculty and are interested in conducting or using the results from any institutional level surveys at Waterloo, please do not hesitate to reach out to

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Caution! Beware of Bots!

Robots using laptops.

It has become increasingly difficult to differentiate online survey answers from real respondents and “bots” (computer programs that perform an automated task) which contribute to fraudulent responses. Based on past SCSRU experience, any incentive offered for completing an online survey with an open link that is distributed through unrestricted channels, including social media, increases the risk of fraudulent respondents. Moreover, online surveys are generally more prone to receive responses from both bots and humans who do not meet eligibility requirements but complete the survey with fraudulent data in an effort to claim the incentive.

The SCSRU has experience creating flags to prevent fraudulent responses and detect bots. Our team of experts have developed customized codes for programming questions to help with bot detection. As part of our due diligence process, the SCSRU reviews both the survey metadata (e.g., IP addresses, location, and duration) and individual responses during the data cleaning process. Prior to launching the survey, the SCSRU employs several processes to minimize and identify the number of fraudulent completions during fieldwork:

  • The use of a CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart).
  • The addition of mandatory attention-checking questions such as questions with responses listed in a random order designed to catch bots.
  • Capturing and reviewing relevant metadata such as duplicate IP addresses, location, and duration.
  • Adding a “honeypot” question. This is a hidden trap question that real respondents do not see but bots read and answer.
  • Daily data cleaning and security monitoring of fraudulent detection fields.

There is evidence that bots are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and are quickly adapting to find new ways to avoid detection (e.g., bypassing CAPTCHA). On several recent projects, our team has encountered bots that were able to provide detailed answers to open-ended questions. This widely occurring issue was a hot topic for discussion at the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) Annual Conference in 2023, which our staff had a chance to attend and learn from other experts in the field of survey research. If you would like more information, please contact our team and we can provide you with more advice about current best practices to detect bots and fraudulent respondents.

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Featured Project

International Social Survey Programme

Dr. Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme in the Department of Sociology and Legal Studies at the University of Waterloo is conducting research for the 2024-2028 International Social Survey Programme (ISSP). The research study involves conducting an online survey annually over the next 5 years. The SCSRU recently completed data collection for the first year of the online survey in Canada, on the theme of national identity and citizenship. This is one of the first web surveys conducted for ISSP, as it has typically been conducted by mail or face-to-face. The online survey in 2023 covered topics including attitudes towards immigration, towards democracy, towards Canada’s role on the international stage, identities, and more. Dr. Wilkins-Laflamme and her colleagues are interested in learning more about people’s attitudes towards various aspects of Canadian society and politics. Data gathered from this study will also be merged with similar data from up to 43 other countries, in order to compare Canadian attitudes with those from around the world.

The International Social Survey Programme logo.

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Upcoming Events

The SCSRU is offering the following free workshops to the campus community. Please register for the workshops on our website’s Events page or by clicking the links below. Limited space is available for each workshop! Please note that all of our workshops are located on campus.

Introduction to Exploratory Data Analysis with R

Wednesday, February 14, 2024, 9:30 AM - 11:30 AM EST

The How-To Guide for Developing Survey Questionnaires

Wednesday, February 28, 2024, 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM EST

An Introduction to Linear Regression

Wednesday, March 13, 2024, 9:00 AM - 11:30 AM EST

Survey Programming in Qualtrics

Wednesday, March 27, 2024, 9:30 AM - 4:00 PM EST

Interested in hearing about upcoming workshops?
Subscribe to our workshop mailing list.

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