Getting Started

Getting a question from pen to paper with PEER can be tricky,but were here to help with the process.

Organizing Questions

There are three different levels for managing and grouping survey content in the PEER Survey Toolkit: Instrument, Topics, and Surveys. Used effectively these three content groupings will provide your users with a clear and cohesive survey experience.

  • An Instrument is a set of questions asking about the same thing.
  • A Topic is built of one or more questions.
  • A survey is built of one or more topics.

Using Topics

Topics group related instruments together.

Example: In the IBCRF portal, all of the instruments specific to a participant’s IBC (versus general medical history, reproductive history, other cancers, family history, demographics, socioeconomic status, and so on) have been grouped into one, Inflammatory Breast Cancer topic. This topic contains the Diagnosis instrument, but also contains instruments on cancer pathology, on cancer treatment, and on cancer recurrence.


Creating a Topic

  • Topic Name Displayed is the topic name your particpants will see.
  • Topic Nickname is the topic name you will see in the Assign Topics widget.

Adding an Instrument to a Topic

Once you’ve created a topic, such as Demographics below, the next step is to add instruments. These instruments are what will eventually contain all of the questions you’re asking your respondents.

  • Click the "+" button to add an instrument

Using an Instrument

  • An instrument should be designed to measure one, specific thing.
  • Not all instruments collect data about specific conditions, either. Consider a group interested in collecting information on socioeconomic status. They might choose to use instruments on Education, Income, Job Status, and Living Situation.

Assigning/Creating an Instrument

  • PST offers the option of assigning an already created instrument to your survey. This will save you a lot of time!
  • If you can’t find an instrument to assign, you should go ahead and create your own.

Assigning an Instrument

  • Click the box of the instruments you want to use, and then click “Assign Instrument(s)”
  • Use the search function to find the instrument you want to use.
  • However Public Instruments can not be edited in any form.

Creating a New Instrument


Instrument Name should reflect your instrument’s question content. It is what your participants will see while they are taking your survey.

Once you named your instrument, click save to add it to your Topic.

Starting Simple

Single choice (radio) questions let people pick one answer from a list of choices (this question type is also called commonly a “multiple choice” question). Use a radio choice question when your answer choices are mutually exclusive and you want the respondent to pick only one radio button choice.

But what happens when one of the answer options is Other? How can you allow for specification when respondents don’t fit into the primary answer choices?


Frequently, someone’s answer to a certain question determines what the next question in their survey should be—in this case, the second question “He describes his gender as “Other” because he is…” has a dependency on the respondent selecting Other on the first (lowest on the page) question.



In the previous example, a dependency must be set on the follow-up question, “I describe my gender as ‘Other’ because I am…” This question will then only show up if the respondent chooses “Other (specify on next question)” for their answer to the question about self-identified gender. How is this done?

To set a dependency on a question, you’ll need to go into your survey in PEER Admin and click the branching button on the right hand side of the question bar (the branching symbol turns red to indicate that branching has been activated). You will see the screen below:


Once you click on the dependency button, you will see the screen below. You must find the question on which your current question is dependent, and select the answer that should lead respondents to the follow up questions (as shown below):


An Example of a Broken Down Question

What other cancer(s) have you been diagnosed with, if any, and when did the diagnosis take place?

PST Translation:
Ask each of the three questions separately. But which one goes first?

The first question should be the one with answers on which the other questions depend. In this case, that would be “Have you been diagnosed with another cancer?” If the respondent says Yes, they will then be directed to the follow up questions: “When were you diagnosed?” and “What other cancer have you been diagnosed with?” If the respondent says No, they will bypass these follow up questions and will be directed to the next set of questions

  • This is the first Question that should be presented to the respondents
      • If the respondent answers No, they should bypass all of the follow up questions
      • If the respondent answers yes, they should be directed to the follow up question:

After entering in the date of diagnosis, the respondent will be shown the final follow up question, which is also dependent on the first question:


So as you can see, by using dependencies you can create a totally personalized survey experience for respondents based on their personal medical histories, demographics, etc.!

Multiple Choice Check boxes and Dependencies

Multiple-choice checkboxes are most appropriate when users can select several valid answers, like symptom selection where users may have many different symptoms for the same condition. See the example below:


But with multiple choices comes the potential for multiple dependencies, which can get tricky. Luckily, different answer selections can lead to the same follow up questions, which helps to simplify things.

Say you are interested in the severity of each of the symptoms that the respondent is experiencing. To accomplish this, you must create questions regarding the severity of each of the specific symptoms that are options for selection. Then, the dependency on each of these follow up questions should be set so that the specific symptom was selected from the original question. Be sure to do each of these one at a time. Each follow up question should be dependent on only that symptom being selected from the original. This way, if the respondent selects multiple symptoms, they will all show up!


Common Confusions

There are a few features in PST that can be confusing when you’re first getting used to using the system. We’ll walk through those now before we get into all the different question types!

Focus Points:

  • The face icons at the top of question creations
  • “Suppress this variant”
  • “Autofill From”
  • “Add Existing Question(s)”

Profile Variants


Each of these faces represent the different types of people for which survey information can be collected through PEER. When creating a new question, all of these faces (called Variants) must be completed. You’ll know that you’ve finished when they are all colored in.

There are certain instances where some profiles shouldn’t be asked a specific question – but how can we accomplish that kind of skipping?

Answer: “Supress this variant”

Suppressing a Varient

Some questions would not make sense if asked about the deceased, such as how much alcohol was consumed in the past 30 days. For questions such as these, the box next to “Suppress this variant” should be selected. This will ensure that the question is not asked for anyone answering on behalf of the deceased.


Other examples include Female-only questions, such as questions about menstruation or pregnancies.

Autofill Form


This helpful tool allows you to autofill in the question from previously completed variants. For example, if you fill out the Myself profile first for a specific question, you can use the autofill feature to populate that same question into the He/She/He Deceased/She Deceases profiles. Then, all you need to do is change the grammar and pronouns!


You can autofill any from any already completed profile – you do not have to always do Myself first.

Add Existing Questions

When adding questions to any instruments, you have the option to create a new question from scratch, or to use existing questions using the button on the top right corner of the Create New Question box:


This will then show a list of questions already created by the group across all of their surveys (shown on the next slide). You can then select a question to use exactly, or you can ‘Duplicate and Edit’ the question if you would like to make some changes.


Once you find the question you are looking for using the Search function or by going through the entries manually, you can select its box on the right hand column.


At the bottom of the questions list from the previous slide are these three options. Once you’ve selected a question, you can either add it in its entirety, or duplicate it so that you can make changes to it.

Note: you can add multiple questions at a time using the Add Existing Question(s) feature, but the entire group of questions must either ALL be added in their entirety, or ALL duplicated for editing. If you need to do something different with certain questions, you should add them in separate batches.

Question Types

* Slider
* Dynamic Slider
* Info Panel
* Text Entry
* Dynamic Text Entry
* Single Choice (pulldown)
* Matrix (Single)
* Matrix (Multi)
* Area (Calculated)
* File Upload
* Pick A Date
* Comment
* Redirect
* Add Survey
* A/B Split


Slider questions present a range or scale, such as from hot to cold, and ask users to position their answer within this range. Often, sliders are useful when the alternative would be listing numbers or options that belong in a series. Sliders provide more flexibility.


Creating a slider Question

The Left Label is where you should enter the lowest value on your scale, which is typically a 0 or a 1. The Right Label is the highest value on your scale, and can be any number higher then the left label. The Mid Label is the midpoint between your left and right labels, and is optional to include. For example, if your left label Is 0 and your right label is 10, your mid label would be 5.


Dynamic Slider

Dynamic sliders first ask users to provide a piece of information. The question uses that information to set up its second half, in which users respond about the piece they had first set up. This is similar to the dynamic text entry, except sliders are used instead of text boxes.


Creating a Dynamic Slider

  • Min and Max are the left and right labels on your slider, respectively
  • Change the units to best fit your question

The header and footer sections walk the respondent through answering the question, so be sure to be very explicit in what you’re expecting of them.

Info Panel

Info panels give respondents important contextual information. They can introduce new survey sections, give pertinent details, and provide important information like contact info or notifications about finishing up the survey
* If you have a long question or one that is particularly complex, you can often place a large portion of the question in an information panel to free up space and make it easier for respondents to answer.


Creating a Info Panel


Info panels are great, but aren’t suitable for ending panels. When you end your survey (if you want to end with text and a thank-you, for example) add a conclusion (see Survey Entry in PST: Introductions and Conclusions).

Text Entry

Text entry is simply an open field that invites users to enter their own text. This can yield answers that are very personalized and precise, but since they are not being coded, only use them if you have a plan in mind for data analysis.

  • Depending on the number of responses, analysis can take a long time and can be labor-intensive. Text entries should therefore be used sparingly.

Creating a Text Entry


Text Entry questions have a function that allows the response to be autocompleted based on various topics, such as: side effects, organs, medications, etc. If you are able to use this function for your specific question, it will be very helpful to your respondents!

Dynamic Text Entry

For a dynamic text entry question, the respondent types in a text entry response for a certain piece of information, such as a symptom. They are then presented with a text box to enter additional information based upon their first entry, such as severity of that symptom.

An example of this type of question would be: For the areas of the body that are you experiencing pain, type the symptom (dynamic text), and what medications are you taking (autocomplete text entry based on the first response) to alleviate the pain?


Creating a Dynamic Text Entry

When entering in the question information, you should put the first question to be asked in the ‘Question’ box (1). The follow-up question should go in the ‘Dynamic Sublabel’ box (2). The ‘Include autocomplete’ can be added, if applicable, for the first main question (3), and the ‘Include dynamic autocomplete’ for the follow-up question (4).


Slider Choice (Pulldown)

A variation on the single-choice (radio) question is the pull-down menu. This question type is best used when you have more than seven choices (for instance, if respondents are asked to select their birth month).

There are three conditions that should be met to justify using a pull-down menu instead of a radio-type question:
* The respondent is making a choice out of a list of more than seven options
* You only want the respondent to choose one response
* The response choices are very easy to understand. Pull-down questions are not suitable for complex answers.


Creating Slider Choice (Pulldown)


Add responses with the "+" button. Be sure to take advantage of the Batch Import feature.

Batch Import

Batch Import allows you to copy and paste in a list of responses. Doing this will save you the time and energy required to enter each answer manually.

Keep in mind:
* Each response should be on its own unique line (separated by a return)
* Make sure there are no extra spaces present in your response list


Copying and pasting will typically import an extra space at the end of a response even if done carefully. PST will read this space as another option, and will create a blank response line for it, which you will then need to delete.

Additional spaces in individual response lines also have the potential to cause difficulties for any complex branching logic you choose to incorporate, as complex branching rules in PST rely on exact entry

Matrix (Single)

Matrices offer efficient ways to ask a bunch of questions at the same time. The single matrix implies that only one answer is selected per question, so basically a single matrix is a handful of single choice (radio) questions that all have the exact same answer choices!


In the above example, all of the question variations have the same five answer choices: Without any difficulty, With a little difficulty With some difficulty, With much difficulty, and Unable to do. Grouping these questions together like this allows respondents to answer questions more quickly, which helps to make sure they will not be too fatigued to complete the entire survey

Creating a single Matrix Question


The column section of the matrix, is where the different questions are listed
The row section of the matrix, is where the answer options are listed. Remember that each question will have all of these same answer choices

Matrix- Multiple Questions

The multiple matrix question type is very similar to the single matrix, except that respondents can choose multiple answers for one question. A good use of this question type would be if you were asking someone about their family history with specific diseases. It is possible that more than one family member has had a specific disease, so being able to choose multiple responses is important.


Creating a Multiple Matrix

  • The column elements of your matrix (the different questions) should be entered in the Choices box
  • The row elements of your matrix (the answer choices) should be entered in the Responses box.
  • Don’t forget to use Batch Import!

Area (Calculated)

Area questions calculate the area of the subject matter (such as a tumor). They are set up to perform the calculations automatically once users fill in a few pieces of information.


Creating an Area Question

  • Make sure you select the appropriate units of measure for your question

File Upload Questions

Ask a survey-taker to upload a file when you would like to offer someone the option to load in a chart, electronic medical record, photo, lab record, medical images, or other piece of information in file form. The question offers a browse function, similar to your computer, so users can select and easily upload the requested information.


Creating a File Upload Question

  • Make sure you’re specific about which types of scans you’re interested in!

Pick a Date

Sometimes you will want to know exactly when an event happened for a user. Or you may want to know a range of dates. In either case, the Pick A Date question type lets your users choose a date manually or by using a calendar.


Creating a Pick a Date Question

  • When creating this question, place the context of the date you are asking for in the Header section.


The comment functions like an open text field as well, but gives more extensive space—it is useful for answers that are expected to be longer or more complicated, as when, for example, users may want to write a paragraph or so in response to a prompt. As with the open text fields, be careful when you pick this question type, since you should have a detailed plan for how you will handle data for analysis after it is collected.


Creating a Comment Question

  • This is where you specify the nature of the comments for which you are asking.


  • Redirect allows you to direct a user to another survey
  • Redirect is best used when you would like to ask a follow up question or receive more information but the user prefers not to right away
  • If the user selects yes they will be directed to another survey immediately and it will save their work

Add Survey

This question type allows you to redirect your current survey to a second survey by inputting the Survey Code of the second survey.

  • The settings bar allows you to choose what happens with the next survey to which the respondents will be directed. See the next slide for descriptions of each option.

Creating a Add Survey Question

  • Require before taking next survey: this option should be used if the linked survey is vital for data collection. Respondents will not be able to answer any other surveys until this one is completed.
  • Take only once: this option should be used if the specific data collected will not change over time, or is only needed one time with no follow up.
  • Repeat every new session: this option should be used if the linked survey should be repeated every time a respondent takes the original survey.
  • Push on demand: this option should be selected if you want the linked survey to be completed whenever you see fit.
  • Repeat on a cycle with reminder: this option should be used if the linked survey should be completed consistently on certain time frames. For example, if you want the survey to be completed once per month, the respondent will be prompted to complete the survey on the X day of each month.

A/B Split

  • A/B split allows you to do a randomization within your survey.
  • It allows you to see if you get better response rate from a group of users
  • This is accomplished by asking a percentage of the users a certain question before or after the other group. It allows you to compare.

Finishing Up

Once you’ve entered in all of your topics, instruments, and questions, the last step is to publish all of your changes!

  • Click Save Changes to publish your changes. Doing this periodically throughout the design process is a good idea!