Repeating form or repeating section?

A form can be repeatable to allow the same form, such as an adverse event form, to be recorded multiple times for the same participant. But a single form can also contain a repeating section, which also allows a set of questions to be answered multiple times for the same participant. So when designing your electronic CRF, you may have to choose between these two options for recording repeating questions.

A repeating form (left) vs a form with a repeating section (right)

How they are the same

  • Repeating forms and repeating sections both allow a set of questions to be recorded multiple times for the same participant.

How they are different

A repeating form listed in the subject view

  • Investigators can add another repeating form at any time. However, they can only add repeating sections when adding the parent form. To add further sections they must later edit the form, which requires the Investigator edit setting to be turned on. Once a new section has been added, the parent form needs to be saved again, otherwise the newly added data will be lost.
  • Repeating sections are displayed in Red Pill on a parent form as a series of panels. This makes it easy to see all responses at the same time.

A form with a repeating section for hospital admissions preceded by a leading question

  • With repeating sections you can include a leading question to ask whether any repeating sections are required. Sealed Envelope can add a custom validator to require none or at least one section to be completed depending on the answer given to the leading question.
  • Repeating sections are stored in a separate database table from the parent form.


  • Use repeating forms for events that can occur (unpredictably) at any time during the study
  • If there are many questions to ask, repeating forms makes data entry easier and more manageable
  • Repeating sections are useful for recording a limited set of questions at a particular visit, such as concomitant medications, information on family members or past hospital admissions. Consider adding a leading question to determine whether any repeating sections are expected and request a custom validation rule to enforce this.
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