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DU REDCap Support

Your first instrument and the record_id field

Brand-new projects come with:

  • one instrument, called "My First Instrument," and
  • one field: the record_id.

The record_id field links together all the records in your study.

You can rename the record_id field now if you wish, but once you start entering data, changing the variable name  of the record_id field will delete all of the data in your project. This is the field the REDCap database uses to link the data for a particular record together -- all databases require a unique ID to distinguish between entries in a database.

Using the online designer vs the data dictionary

There are two ways to create instruments within REDCap.

The Online Designer resembles the interface in Qualtrics or Survey Monkey:

  • Create questions and make changes one at a time
  • Access survey settings to change instructions, design, & display, etc
  • See basic preview of instrument
  • Click "create snapshot of instruments" to back up your instruments before making any major changes.

The Data Dictionary is a more advanced method which allows you to view/edit all of your project instruments in a single csv file. Once you're familiar with how REDCap formats csv files, you can:

  • Download the Data Dictionary as a csv and make changes to multiple parts of instrument(s) at once.
  • Upload the new csv version into same project or a different project.
  • REDCap will ask you to "Commit Changes" once you upload the new Data Dictionary -- the new Data Dictionary will completely overwrite your existing instruments, so you want to be sure you've uploaded the right file.

Understanding how REDCap labels and codes your data


The "Field Label" is the text of the question your participants see displayed on the survey page (or that data entry persons see on the data entry page of a database).


The "Variable Name" is what ties the variable to associated data (and it’s the column name when you export data). While you can change the "Field Label" during data collection to fix spelling or grammar, changing the "Variable Name" will delete all data previously stored under that variable name.


The "Label" is the text of the answer choice your participant sees displayed on the survey page (or that data entry persons see on the data entry page of a database).

The "code" is the numeric value of the answer choice selected, which the database uses to store/interpret the answer choice.

In the example above, "Chips" is the label for the first answer choice, and '1' is its code/raw value.

If you need to edit the "Label" of any answer choices during data collection, be sure that the Label stays associated with the same Code -- so, if the answer choice "Chips" had the code value of "1" when you started the project, it should keep the code value of 1 throughout the project

What question types are available in REDCap?

The best way to become familiar with the question types is to experiment with them -- we recommend you create a practice project and import the Data Dictionary below.