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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.