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Understanding Question Types and Data Validation

The questions you ask of respondents are the ultimate core of every survey project. The entire effort is directed towards inquiry, and the questions are the elements that perform the actual interrogation. Based on your objective, you have to decide what types of questions will give you the information you need. Each question type is unique and provides different types of data. In this article, we will be addressing the different question types available with eSurveysPro and how to use them in creating surveys. We will also discuss the different data validation techniques that you can use to optimize results. eSurveysPro helps you develop your surveys quickly -- and save your specialized questions to assure consistency from survey to survey.

The different types of questions provided by eSurveysPro are as follows:

Single Select: When you want respondents to choose just one alternative, use a single select question. No "ties" are allowed and the respondent can only pick only one option. Single select questions are appropriate when:

  • Each choice criterion is clearly stated.
  • The criterion actually defines a single category.
  • The difference between each category is relevant to your research objective.

A few examples of single select questions are yes-no, select best that applies, or preference scales. You can use single select questions for a variety of purposes; such as filtering the respondents based on their answers, prioritizing respondents, or asking follow up questions based on the answer selected. Single select questions are ideal when you want to conduct specialized data analysis such as Simple Regression or Multiple Regression analysis.

With eSurveysPro, it's easy for you to select whether response options are displayed vertically, horizontally, in columns, or in a pull-down menu. Single select questions can be used as the basis for skip groups, which take respondents to the next question based on their previous response. Skip groups are especially useful if you need to get further clarification on a response, if certain questions are only appropriate for certain sets of respondents or if you want to eliminate respondents through qualifying questions early in the survey.

Multiple Select: Multiple select (or multiple choice) questions allow respondents to choose several different responses to a specific question. This question format is very common because of its simplicity and versatility. Multiple select questions are ideal for mutually exclusive response categories, where the concepts do not overlap, and should not be used to gather numeric data. When the answers can be expressed as numbers, a numeric response question should be used, allowing respondents to record an exact number. Use multiple select questions to gather all the possible and relevant responses to your question, especially when you want to focus on particular categories or compare across categories. For instance, you want to know which radio stations a respondent listens to. Since many respondents may listen to several, you can use a multiple select question. In your data analysis, you can assess the demographic results based on each radio station, or each set of radio stations. You can also identify the other stations respondents listen to in addition to a specific station.

eSurveysPro allows you to control how responses are displayed and require that respondents select a certain number of items (e.g., "select the two most important factors.").

Open-ended questions: These questions are commonly knows as unstructured or qualitative questions, and allow respondents to enter alphanumeric responses. eSurveysPro offers limited and unlimited open-ended questions. Limited text questions require the respondent to provide a brief answer, whereas the unlimited text questions allow users to enter as much text as they want. Open-ended questions may be used as totally independent questions or to follow-up on structured or close-ended questions to collect additional information or clarification. Unlimited text questions are helpful when they are independent questions that require a higher amount of input from the respondents. Whereas limited text questions are more suitable for follow-up questions that require little additional information, or structured information such as a telephone number, e-mail address or customer ID.

Unlimited text questions may produce as many different responses as there are respondents in the sample. To make sense of this data, beyond just reading each response, it is helpful to group answers into categories so that you can measure results quantitatively. This process can be very time-consuming, especially with a lot of responses, so minimizing the number of unlimited text questions you use in each survey is ideal.

Numeric Value: The principal advantage to using a numeric value format is that you obtain an actual number from each respondent. This is especially valuable in measuring central tendency and median. If you need to analyze real numbers, this format is preferable to single or multiple select questions, where your analysis would be limited to response frequency for specified ranges.

By using eSurveysPro, you can specify a numeric range into which responses will fall. When analyzing your data, eSurveysPro automatically calculates the mean (average) and median (middle point) for each numeric value question, and lets you select the step value in which the graph reports the data. This graph gives you a quick snapshot of the distribution curve.

Matrix format: eSurveysPro provides two types of matrix questions: single select and multiple select. Matrix questions are best used when you want to group questions with the same set of responses, such as in a Likert scale. The single select format is most commonly used to rank multiple items on the same scale, and is helpful in obtaining people's position on certain issues or conclusions. The multi-select matrix format captures a higher number of data points for each category, allowing respondents to choose several answers. You can look at the sample provided below in order to get a better understanding of multi-select matrix.

eSurveysPro presents all of the results from each Matrix question in one stacked bar graph, so you can compare the data sets to each other easily. Then each category is graphed individually.

Rank Order: A rank order question allows respondents to state their preferences from a list of items. A ranking order question obtains not only the most preferred items, but also the sequence of the remaining items, so you can measure the relationship or importance between them. This type of data is very useful while conducting conjoint analysis, where you look at the preferences of specific respondents. Or you can use multiple rank order questions to conduct correspondence analysis, where you can quantify and compare different sets of perceptions.

Date Format: This question lets you specify how the date should be entered. It allows you to incorporate pre-field and post-field text. This question is also used as a way to validate your data. You would not need to add a question about the current date since eSurveysPro automatically assigns date and time values to each response as it is taken so that you can compare results over time.

HTML Snippet: eSurveysPro supports the ability to insert HTML code between questions. You can enter any HTML directly into the text area of the dialog. It allows you to add section headings, special directions, images, sounds, animations, tables or other HTML features.

Hidden Fields: If you have data that you want to place into your survey that you do not want to user to type in, the Hidden Field is the best solution. Using the hidden field values can be passed in on the address of the survey as parameters. This may be a trouble ticket number, a customer ID, employee ID, etc. When you create a hidden field (or any question within eSurveysPro for that matter) it is assigned a unique value within the survey. Using this method you can pre-populate values into your survey that can be used to filter responses.

Data Validation

Data validation lets you define what type of data you want entered in a cell and how it should be entered. For example, you can allow entry of a letter grade with only the letters A through F. With eSurveysPro, you can set up data validation to prevent users from entering data that isn't valid, or allow invalid data but check for it after the user is finished. By doing this, you will ensure that your surveys are completed properly.

eSurveysPro lets you designate the following types of valid data for your survey:

  • Text validation: Designate the format in which the respondent must enter text data. For example you can require that respondents enter their social security number as either 999999999 or as 999-99-9999.
  • Length: Set the minimum and maximum number of characters that can be used in a limited text response.
  • Numeric: Set a minimum and maximum value for numeric fields.
  • Date: Set a format in which the respondent must enter date information.
  • Data Block: Designate "Sum-to" amounts so that the total of the numeric entries add up to an exact number.
  • Required Responses: Identify specific questions that respondents must answer. Be careful when using both required responses and skip groups: if you set one of your required response questions within a skip group, respondents who skipped over that question will be returned to it during validation after they press "Submit".

With current, accurate data at your fingertips by using the right types of questions and validating you data, you can make winning decisions about the programs that you implement. eSurveysPro provides you with a list of question types, question library as well as data validation features that you can use to ensure that your data is accurate.




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