Action Tags
Archival Status
Branching Logic
Calculated Field
Calendar
Codebook
Data Access Groups
Data Dictionary
Data Comparison
Data Quality
Date Shifting
Development Status
Draft Status
Event
Field
Field Label
Field Note
Field Validation
File Repository
Form
Identifier
Inactive Status
Instrument
Locking
Logging
Matrix
Online Designer
PDF Auto-Archiver
Piping
Production Status
Randomization
Ranking Matrix
Record
Record ID
Record Status
Record Status Dashboard
Repeatable Instruments
Repeatable Events
Reports
Scheduling
Survey
Survey Login
Survey Queue
User Rights
User Roles
Variable Name

 

Action Tags

Action tags are a way to customize data entry for individual fields in a survey or form to make sure the data is exactly what you need. An action tag is a command, starting with an “@,” that is entered into the “Action Tags/Field Annotation” box when creating or editing a field. The tag gives REDCap a command about how that field should be completed. 

For example, say you wanted to include the following question in a survey about media consumption:

Please select the three streaming services you use the most:
□ Amazon Prime
□ CBS All Access
□ DirecTV Now
□ HBONow
□ Hulu
□ Netflix
□ Sling TV
□ YouTube TV
□ Other: 

To ensure that participants only select three streaming services, as requested by the question, you can use the action tag “MAXCHECKED” by entering “@MAXCHECKED=3” to allow a maximum of 3 checkbox choices to be selected. 

To learn more about action tags, go to the “Help & FAQ” tab in REDCap and select the topic “Action Tags” from the dropdown menu. 

Archival Status

This is a status projects can be moved to when data collection is complete and/or a researcher no longer wishes to view the project on their “My Projects” page. An archived project has most project functionality disabled, but data will remain available for export. Archived projects are only accessible by clicking the “Show Archived Projects” link at the bottom of the “My Projects” page. Archived projects can be moved back to production status at any time. 

Since archived projects take up the same amount of server space as active projects, completed projects should be deleted. The IHSI REDCap team appreciates the cooperation of researchers in deleting projects and maintaining records. Server space is a large cost of REDCap, and deleting projects helps keep server costs low and REDCap free for the Illinois research community. 

Branching Logic

When branching logic is applied to a question, it will only appear if certain conditions in previous questions are met. This is sometimes called “conditional logic” or “skip logic.” 

When building a survey or form, branching logic can be added to a field after it has been created and saved. In Online Designer, select the green arrows. A pop-up will appear asking you to add or edit branching logic. There are two options for adding branching logic: writing syntax or using a drag-and-drop builder.  For instance, if you would like a certain question to appear only for females, and female is coded as “1” in a previous question (variable name “sex”), you could write syntax that says “[sex]=‘1’” or use the drag-and-drop builder to drag “sex = Female (1)” to the correct location. Either way, the question you are applying branching logic to will only appear for people who say they are female. 

If you want to apply branching logic based on a previous question that uses checkboxes, you need to indicate whether an option is checked or unchecked, using “1” for checked and “0” for unchecked. For example, if you ask someone to select three media streaming services they use out of a list (variable name “stream”), and would like several questions to appear if they select the first option, the branching logic would say “[stream(1)]=‘1’”. Note that the variable name is always enclosed in square brackets when writing syntax.

To learn more about branching logic, go to the “Help & FAQ” tab in REDCap and select the topic “Branching Logic” from the dropdown menu. 

Calculated Field

A calculated field is a field type that lets users build a calculation using information entered into other fields of a survey or form. 

For example, if a survey asks for the monthly income of a participant (variable name “income”) and the monthly income of their partner (variable name “income_partner”), you could calculate the total monthly household income by entering the calculation equation as “[income]+[income_partner]”. If you wanted to estimate the total annual household income of the participant, the calculation equation would be entered as “([income]+[income_partner])*12”. Note that the variable name is always enclosed in square brackets when writing calculations. 

In addition to equations using basic arithmetic, the calculated fields can also utilize more advanced commands, such as rounding a number, returning the standard deviation for a set of values, and calculating the difference between two dates. Conditional logic can also be utilized in calculated fields.

To learn more about calculations, go to the “Help & FAQ” tab in REDCap and select the topic “Calculations” from the dropdown menu. 

Calendar

The calendar is an application that can be used to organize the research team, participant, and project schedules and events. The functionality of the calendar will depend on what other features are enabled in a project. There are two kinds of events: calendar-specific events and record-specific events. Calendar-specific events are not connected to a record, but can be used to indicate project-wide events, such as lab meetings or grant deadlines. Record-specific events are connected to participants, such as study visits or compensation dates; these events can also be used to access data collection instruments. In longitudinal projects, the scheduling module must be enabled for data collection instruments to be accessible through the calendar. 

Codebook

A codebook is a document that lists all the questions, prompts, and answers in a project. This differs from the PDF of an instrument, because the codebook shows additional information, such as the codes assigned to multiple choice answers, field annotations used, and field validations used for open text boxes. To see the codebook for your project, select “Codebook” on the “Project Home” page.

Data Access Groups

Assigning users to Data Access Groups will restrict the data they have access to; users in a group will only have access to records created by other users within that group. This is a useful feature for multi-site or multi-group projects to ensure “minimum necessary” standards of data access are practiced. 

Data Dictionary

The Data Dictionary is a CSV file that holds the architecture of a project. It can be used as an alternative to the Online Designer for building or editing projects through creating and uploading a Data Dictionary. However, this is considered an advanced process and should only be used when someone considers themselves experienced in REDCap. In addition, it is also a good idea to save Data Dictionaries for every project for future reference or project duplication. To learn more about using a Data Dictionary see the How to Use a Data Dictionary document.

Data Comparison

This is a tool for doing a side-by-side comparison of two records. To use this tool, select “Data Comparison Tool” from the left-hand menu and select the two records you would like to compare from the drop-down menus.  

Data Quality

This is a tool for examining the quality of data within REDCap to look for discrepancies in the data. REDCap comes with eight pre-defined data quality rules: missing values, missing values (required fields only), field validation errors (incorrect data type), field validation errors (out of range), outliers for numerical fields, hidden fields that contain values, multiple choice fields with invalid values, and incorrect values for calculated fields. To use any of these rules, select “Data Quality” from the left-hand menu and select “Execute” next to the rule you want to carry out. Executing the rules will show how many fields are affected by a discrepancy, e.g. how many required fields have missing values. In addition to the pre-defined data rules, customizable data quality rules can be made for each project.

Date Shifting

This is a method of de-identification where dates can be shifted up to 364 days back in time so as not to reflect actual dates. REDCap can shift dates during data export by selecting the “Shift all dates…” option under “Date and datetime fields” in the de-identification options. There is also an option to shift survey completion timestamps. 

Development Status

This is the status for projects as they are being built and tested. Real data should never be entered while a project is in development, as there are no checks in place to prevent data from being accidentally deleted or corrupted. Projects should be moved to production status before real data is entered. 

Draft Status

This is the status for making changes to an in-production project. After a project has been moved to production, changes will only occur automatically if the project either 1) has no records, or 2) has records but no critical issues exist. In other instances, a REDCap administrator will ask you to confirm any changes that pose critical issues to the data. To learn more about making changes to an in a project that is already in production, see the Making Changes in Production document.  

Event

An event is an occurrence when data is captured during a longitudinal research project. Events can only be defined in projects that have been enabled for longitudinal data collection. Define events by selecting “Define My Events” on the “Project Setup” page. 

Field

A field is a single piece of data.

Field Label

This is the text that will be visible to researchers and/or participants during data collection. This is the place where questions (e.g. “How old are you?”) or information about the data (e.g. “Age”) will be entered. 

Field Note

This is a place to enter notes, reminders, or instructions for data entry personnel or survey-takers. You can also modify field notes using HTML tags. Field notes will appear in the Codebook. 

Field Validation

Field validation is an option for the Text Box field type. This allows the user to limit, or validate, what kind of information is entered into the text box to ensure it is accurate. This may be confirming that a number does not exceed a maximum or dictating the date format that is used. To validate a Text Box in Online Designer, select what type of validation you want from the “Validation?” drop down menu when adding or editing a field.    

File Repository

This is a place within a REDCap project to store files and documents related to a project. Some information is automatically downloaded into the file repository, such as data whenever a data export is performed or a PDF of a completed survey if the PDF auto-archiver feature is enabled. 

Form

A form is an instrument in which data can only be entered or collected by Illinois REDCap users. This is the alternative to a survey and is also known as data entry. 

Identifier

An identifier is a piece of information that is linked to data and can individually, or in conjunction with other information, be used to identify a research participant. Identifiers should always be marked as an identifier when the field that will collect identifiable information is created. More information about identifiers and the 18 HIPAA identifiers can be found in the Protecting High Risk Data document. 

Inactive Status

This is a status projects can be moved to when data collection is complete. An inactive project has most project functionality disabled, but data will remain available for export. Inactive projects will still appear on the “My Projects” page. Inactive projects can be moved back to production status at any time. 

Since inactive projects take up the same amount of server space as active projects, completed projects should be deleted. The IHSI REDCap team appreciates the cooperation of researchers in deleting projects and maintaining records. Server space is a large cost of REDCap, and deleting projects helps keep server costs low and REDCap free for the Illinois research community. 

Instrument

An instrument is a data collection tool. An instrument can be left as a form, to be completed by an Illinois REDCap user, or enabled as a survey, to be completed by a research participant. 

Locking

Locking is a way to “close” a form from further data entry or editing until a user with Lock/Unlock privileges unlocks the form. 

Logging

Logs are taken of all changes made to a project, including data exports, data changes, and record creation or deletion. Logs are a good way to track user behavior for auditing. In addition to reviewing logs in the system, a log can be downloaded in a CSV file. Only users who have been granted “Logging” privileges in the User Rights will be able to view and download logs.

Matrix

A matrix is a way to display multiple questions with the same response options, such as when a series of questions use the same Likert scale. To add a matrix in Online Designer, select “Add Matrix of Fields” instead of “Add Field.” This will open a window for developing a matrix. 

To learn more about matrix fields, go to the “Help & FAQ” tab in REDCap and select the topic “Matrix Fields” from the dropdown menu. 

Online Designer

This is a way to build and edit instruments through a point-and-click interface. 

PDF Auto-Archiver

When this feature is enabled, a PDF of the completed survey will automatically be stored in the project’s File Repository. 

Piping

Piping allows answers from previous questions to auto-populate, or “pipe,” into another place in a survey or form. Answers from any field type, except a file upload, can be piped into another location, including answers to multiple choice questions. There are many places information can be piped into, such as other field labels, option labels, and survey completion text. 

For example, say you wanted to ask someone why they answered a question about a television show a certain way (variable name “tel_show”). Without utilizing piping, you would write, “Why did you choose that as your favorite television show?” To use piping, you could write “Why did you choose [tel_show] as your favorite television show?” This will pipe their answer choice from the first question into the current question. Note that the variable name is always enclosed in square brackets when piping.

For security reasons, identifiers should not be piped across events in longitudinal surveys. 

To learn more about piping, select the button that says “Piping” when adding or editing a field in Online Designer. 

Production Status

This is the status for projects when data is actively being collected or input. Production mode is more secure and protects the integrity of the data, as it has checks in place to prevent data loss or corruption. To request a project be moved to production, scroll to the bottom of the “Project Setup” page and select “Move project to production.” There are also several administrative checks done by the IHSI REDCap team before a project is moved from development into production. 

Randomization

REDCap has a randomization module that allows researchers to implement a defined randomization model within a project. In addition to simple randomization, REDCap also offers tools for stratified randomization and randomization by site for multisite projects. The randomization module is not automatic; users with randomization privileges will need to manually randomize participants as they are enrolled in the study. 

To learn more about randomization, go to the “Help & FAQ” tab in REDCap and select the topic “Randomization Module” from the dropdown menu.

Ranking Matrix

This is a matrix where choices are “ranked” so that no two fields in the matrix can have the same selected value. This can be enabled after “Add Matrix of Fields” is selected when developing a matrix. 

Record

A record contains all the information for a unique participant, subject, or case. 

Record ID

The Record ID is a unique identifier for each record in a project. The name of this field can be changed but must remain the first field in the first instrument. If the first instrument in a project is enabled as a public survey, auto-numbering is required. If the first instrument in a project is not enabled as a public survey, records can be custom numbered. 

Record Status

There is a color-coding system that shows the completeness of data for each instrument in a project. A red circle indicates that a survey or form is incomplete, yellow indicates that it is unverified, and green indicates that it is complete. Instruments that were completed as surveys will also have a checkmark in the circle. If an instrument is enabled as a repeatable instrument, a blue circle indicates that the repeated instruments have multiple statuses. 

Record Status Dashboard

This is a table that lists all existing records and their status for each data collection instrument. Data collection instruments can be accessed through the dashboard. 

Repeatable Instruments 

This is a way to repeat a single instrument an undetermined amount of times. This can be a good option when data will need to be collected longitudinally, but there is not a pre-set number of events, or when the same questions will be asked multiple times for multiple cases. This is often called one-to-many data collection.  

For example, a researcher wants to collect data on applying for jobs. They want a participant to answer the same questions for each job they apply for. Instead of including the same questions multiple times in one instrument, the researcher can create a repeatable instrument that can be completed for each job for which a participant has applied. 

To enable a repeatable instrument, design your instrument, then select the “Enable” button for “Repeatable instruments and events.” This will let you select what instruments you want to repeat. There is no limit on how many instruments can be enabled as repeatable. Repeatable instruments can also be utilized when a study is set up longitudinally with pre-defined events. To learn more about repeatable instruments, go to the “Training Videos” tab in REDCap and select the video titled “Repeatable instruments and events.” Please note that due to how survey invitations function in REDCap, repeatable instruments function better as data entry forms rather than surveys.    

Repeatable Events

When longitudinal data collection is enabled in a project, repeatable events allow a whole event, or group, of instruments to repeat together an unlimited amount of times. This is an alternative to creating a pre-determined number of identical events; this approach can be beneficial if you’re unsure how many times an event will repeat. A repeatable event connects the instruments completed during the event, showing that the data was collected at the same time and aiding in correlative analyses. 

For example, a researcher wants to collect data on four instruments each time a participant goes to the doctor’s office. However, they do not know how many times each participant will go to the doctor’s office. One participant may go to the doctor’s office twice during the study period, while another participant may go thirteen times. This lack of predictability makes it difficult to establish defined events in a longitudinal study. Creating the event “Doctor’s Visit” with the four necessary instruments, then setting it to be a repeating event will allow flexibility in collecting this data. 

To enable a repeatable event, design your instruments, define your events, and assign instruments to those events. Then select the “Enable” button for “Repeatable instruments and events.” This will let you select what events you want to repeat. To learn more about repeatable events, go to the “Training Videos” tab in REDCap and select the video titled “Repeatable instruments and events.” Please note that due to how survey invitations function in REDCap, instruments in repeatable events function better as data entry forms rather than surveys. 

Reports

This is a way to view data within REDCap, minimizing how often data needs to be exported. Customizable reports can be made for each project by going to the “Data Exports, Reports, and Stats” page from the left-hand menu. Unidimensional descriptive statistics and charts can also be viewed from the “Data Exports, Reports, and Stats” page by selecting the “Stats & Charts” button.   

Scheduling

The scheduling module is an additional feature for longitudinal data collection that can generate participant schedules based on project-defined events. When the scheduling module is enabled, there is an additional requirement to specify how many days after Event 1 subsequent events will take place. When that is established, the scheduling module – selectable from the left-hand menu under “Data Collection” – can be used to put record-specific events on the project calendar.  

Survey

This is an instrument in which a research participant can enter data or answer questions without an Illinois REDCap account by accessing the instrument through a URL. To learn more about utilizing surveys in REDCap, view the How to Use REDCap Surveys document.

Survey Login

This is a way to increase security on private surveys by requiring participants to enter 1 – 3 specified login credentials in order to begin a survey. The credentials must already exist in the system for the survey login feature to be utilized, either by pulling them from a survey that has already been completed or by entering them on a form.  

Survey Queue

This is a list of surveys a participant needs to complete on a single page. The survey queue is also accessible from a link in the top right-hand corner of a survey being completed. A survey queue can utilize conditional logic and auto starting.

User Rights

Rights are customized permissions given to project users to access various data features. To learn more about user rights, view the User Rights and Roles document.

User Roles

Roles are predefined sets of customized user rights to which users can be assigned. To learn more about user roles, view the User Rights and Roles document.

Variable Name

This is the name of the variable that will be stored in the REDCap database and exported for a field. Only letters, numbers, and underscores are allowable in the variable name. There is an option to enable the variable to be auto named based on the field label.