Creating Forms/Instruments in REDCap

  • If you’ve ever asked for help from a REDCap Administrator, it’s likely you’ve heard the question, “Do you know your project ID?” Each project in REDCap has a unique ID number known as the “Project ID” or “pid”. Your project ID is the easiest way for REDCap Administrators to navigate to your project to help answer your questions. PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR PROJECT ID in any email request you send.

    To find your project ID:

    1. Click on “My Projects” then click on the specific project where you need help.
    2. The next screen will take you to the Project Home page (if you are in production) or the Project Setup page (if you are in development).
    3. Your project ID will appear as “pid=xxxx” in the URL (aka web address) of any page within REDCap if you are inside of a particular project. See screenshot below.
    4. In this example below, the project ID is “714”.

    Project ID
  • One of the most common questions we receive is “What is the difference between a data collection form and a survey?” Below we highlight the differences.

    Data Collection Forms:

    • Must be filled out by a user who logs into REDCap.
    • Simply add the users to your project and have them click on “Add/Edit Records”

      Data Collection Forms
    • Advantages:
      • Users entering data have the ability to see all data they’ve previously entered, edit previous responses, or check for updates.
      • Users not only have access to data entry, but all other REDCap features (reports/exports, Training Videos, File Repository, Data Quality checks, etc.).
      • Easier to troubleshoot errors because of the log that accompanies data entry.
      • All entries are logged with a timestamp. REDCap tracks who entered data, any changes with old and new values, the IP address where it was entered, the date and time, etc. NOTE: This timestamp is not included in reports or exports though.
      • User have the ability to give a form a status, marking it as “complete” or “incomplete” depending on what is most useful for workflow.


    • Intended to be filled out participants (non-REDCap users)
    • No login required.
    • Responses are anonymous unless survey invitations are used and combined with a Participant Identifier (different from marking a field as an identifier in the Online Designer).
    • Web interface has a sleeker design and can be customized with Logos and instructions.
    • Advantages
      • Survey responses are anonymous (can also be a disadvantage).
      • All completed surveys have a date and timestamp that can be included in reports and exports.
      • Easier to enter responses from a smartphone or tablet.
      • No need for logging in or adding users.
  • Adding and enabling surveys in your project can be accomplished in just a few clicks. Here’s how:

    1. In Main project settings, select Enable button next to Use surveys in this project?
      enable surveys

    2. In Project Setup, select Online Designer:
      enable surveys

    3. In Online Designer, select Survey Settings:
      enable surveys
  • A field is defined by the following attributes: type, label, name, validation, required, identifier, note.

    Available field types:

    • Text Box: single-line text box (for text and numbers)
    • Notes Box: large text box for lots of text
    • Calculated Field: perform real-time calculations
    • Multiple Choice – Drop-down List: options for single answer
    • Multiple Choice – Radio Buttons: options for single answer
    • Checkboxes: checkboxes to allow selection of more than one option
    • Yes – No: radio buttons with yes and no options; coded as 1, yes | 0, No
    • True – False: radio buttons with true and false options; coded as 1, True | 0, false
    • Slider/Visual Analog Scale: coded as 0-100
    • File Upload: upload a document
    • Descriptive Text (with optional image/file attachment): optional formatting feature
    • Begin New Section (with optional text): starts new page

    In addition, branching logic can be applied to specify whether or not a question will be displayed, depending on values entered in previous question(s).

Moving to Production

  • Production mode is designed to protect your data from unintentional data corruption or deletions which could wreak havoc on your carefully planned and constructed project. It does not unlock any additional features for the end-user and is only there is a safety measure to protect your data from your own mistakes. When you are in production mode, each version of your data dictionary is kept and can be reverted to in the event of a mistake or to see when changes were made to a project. This is great when an accident, such as uploading a partial data dictionary occurs.

    When you start a new database in REDCap, it is in development mode. Here you can easily create new forms, delete forms, change fields, and more. While this flexibility is great for designing and testing your database, it could easily cause problems once you’re ready to collect your real study information. When you are in production mode, any change to the data dictionary that could result in the loss of data will require approval (which can mean a 24 hour delay).

  • If the thought of losing the data you have entered into your REDCap project sounds painful, then you should be in Production mode. Production mode helps protect your data from accidental mistakes.

    In general, we recommend you enter at least 3 test records in development mode, verifying ALL branching logic, survey flow, etc. If testing went really well and you have a bunch of good data in your project, you can move to production mode and KEEP existing data (uncheck the box to delete). In most cases, however, you will delete all your test data and start from scratch once in production mode.

  • There is no reason to move a ‘test’ project into production mode. There are NO additional features that are enabled when moving to production. You can test and even collect data in development mode.

  • Data Access Groups restrict viewing of data within a database. A typical use of Data Access Groups is a multi-site study where users at each site should only be able to view data from their site but not any other sites. Users at each site are assigned to a group, and will only be able to view data entered by users from that group.

  • For a question with an unknown number of answers, such as how many medications someone is taking, you may want to display the fields only as they are needed. REDCap currently is not able to dynamically produce these fields, however, there is a way to use branching logic to do this.

    If you can estimate what the maximum number of fields you will need, create that many copies of your field, and hide/expose them as needed using branching logic. So, for example, if you think 15 is a good maximum, you would create 15 copies of the field. Then you could create a count variable that these fields would branch off of.

    Your branching logic would look like this:


    So, if your variable is medications, and the respondent takes 2 medications, you enter 2 in count variable, then the med1 and med2 fields appear, if they take 3, you enter that, and meds1 to med3 fields appear.

    Another method is to first create the maximum number of fields that you estimate will be needed, as above, and the hide/expose each field as the previous field receives data. Using this method will cause each field to show up as needed. Your branching logic would look like:


    A note of caution: In both of the above examples it is possible for one to enter data into one of the fields but for that field to later not be displayed to the user. This is a general issue whenever using branching/skip logic.

User Rights

  • The rights of each user who is granted access to a project must be defined depending on the user’s profile and role in the study. It is recommended to check all access rights on a regular basis during the entirety of your project.

    Under ‘Applications’ on the right hand side, select ‘User Rights’


    The next page will allow you to enter an Ascension Network Username to add a new user or User Role:


    User rights and creating roles – For a glossary of User Rights privileges, please download the User Rights Glossary. Below is a useful table to guide your decisions about who should have access to applications and features within REDCap.



  • User Roles (e.g. data entry personnel) are useful for your project when you have several users who will require the same User privileges. Instead creating privileges individually, you can add a role and assign users to that role. Roles allow you to easily add many users to a role in a much faster manner than setting their user privileges individually. Roles are also a nice way to categorize users within a project. Any user assigned to a role will assume the user privileges of that role. Users can be assigned, reassigned, or unassigned to roles at any time. There is no limit to how many roles that can be created per project nor a limit on how many users can be assigned to a given role.


  • No. While REDCap is available at no charge to consortium partners, and the application is built using some Open Source components, the REDCap application is not Open Source. Vanderbilt University retains control over new functionality, bug fixes, and the release process.

  • Study data were collected and managed using REDCap electronic data capture tools hosted at Ascension – [Your Ministry].1 REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture) is a secure, web-based application designed to support data capture for research studies, providing 1) an intuitive interface for validated data entry; 2) audit trails for tracking data manipulation and export procedures; 3) automated export procedures for seamless data downloads to common statistical packages; and 4) procedures for importing data from external sources.

    1Paul A. Harris, Robert Taylor, Robert Thielke, Jonathon Payne, Nathaniel Gonzalez, Jose G. Conde, Research electronic data capture (REDCap) – A metadata-driven methodology and workflow process for providing translational research informatics support, J Biomed Inform. 2009 Apr;42(2):377-81.

  • Ascension IS performs monthly patches to the REDCap servers. REDCap will have a very brief downtime between 8:00p and 11:59p on the second Thursday of every month. Typically, the downtime will last less than 5 minutes. If REDCap ever needs to be taken offline outside of this regular schedule, users will be notified via email ahead of time.

  • To retain all the special characters in your REDCap project:

    When you download a data dictionary file from REDCap, it comes out encoded as UTF-8, which is correct if you want the special characters to display correctly. As soon as you open it in Excel and save it, Excel automatically changes the encoding back to ANSI. When you upload that dictionary back into REDCap you see jumbled characters.

    There are two solutions to this problem:

    1. Downloading this addin to Excel: http://jaimonmathew.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/excel_addin_to_work_with_unicode_csv/
      • When saving a data dictionary with special characters, just click the “Unicode CSV” tab and click Save, instead of saving it regularly. Upload this saved dictionary to REDCap.
    2. Alternatively, you can save the data dictionary in Excel, then open it in Notepad or Notepad++, and then click save as to change the encoding to UTF-8.