Data Collection

Technology-focused methods

Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA). Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) refers to a collection of methods often used in behavioral medicine research by which a research participant repeatedly reports on symptoms, affect, behavior, and cognitions close in time to experience and in the participants’ natural environment (Stone Shiffman, 1994). Technologies such as written diaries, electronic diaries, telephones, and physiological sensors are often utilized in EMA studies. EMA studies can be utilized to study a variety of topics such as depression, social support, relationships, diet, work activity and satisfaction, psychotherapy, drug use, allergies, psychological stress, medications, self-esteem, and asthma. The NUCoach platform facilitates EMA.

Tools and Services

Qualtrics is an online secure data acquisition and management system. Forms are easily created and can include data checks and skip, display, and branch logic. The program meets general HIPAA regulations and is complaint with standard security protocols. Licensing costs are supported by the Bouvé College. Visit the ITS site for access.

REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture) is a web-based application developed to support data capture and management. The program provides automated export to a variety of statistical packages including SPSS and SAS. REDCap is installed behind a secure and monitored firewalled server at Northeastern and can only be accessed via Northeastern’s on-campus network or via remote virtual private network (VPN).  Contact Tufts CTSI for access.

Assessment Center (SM) is a free, online data collection tool that enables researchers to create study-specific websites for capturing participant data securely online. Studies can include measures within the Assessment Center library as well as custom instruments entered by the researcher. The instrument library includes self- and proxy-report short forms, computerized adaptive tests (CATs), and batteries or profiles from:

  • Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS)
  • Quality of Life in Neurological Diseases (Neuro-QoL)
  • NIH Toolbox
  • Health LiTT

Among other important features, Assessment Center also enables:

  • Downloading library instruments for administration on paper
  • Customization of items or instruments (e.g., format, randomization, skip patterns)
  • Real-time scoring of CATs and short forms
  • Storage of protected health information (PHI) in a separate, secure database
  • Automated accrual reports
  • Real-time data export
  • Ability to capture endorsement of online consent forms

NIH Toolbox is a multidimensional set of brief measures assessing cognitive, emotional, motor and sensory function from ages 3 to 85, meeting the need for a standard set of measures that can be used as a “common currency” across diverse study designs and settings. The Toolbox monitors neurological and behavioral function over time, and measures the domain constructs across developmental stages. This facilitates the study of functional changes across the lifespan, including evaluating intervention and treatment effectiveness.

  • Available domains: Cognition, Emotion, Motor, Sensation.
  • Click here to begin the e-Learning module, which provides highlights of the Toolbox, details about each measure, and recommendations about how to administer each measure.
  • The NIH Toolbox Measures require the use of the Assessment Center.

PhenX Toolkit provides standard measures related to complex diseases, phenotypic traits and environmental exposures. Use of PhenX measures facilitates combining data from a variety of studies, and makes it easy for investigators to expand a study design beyond the primary research focus. All Toolkit content is available to the public at no cost