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Survey Makeover Episode 4: When to Use Open-Ended and Matrix Questions

Survey Makeover Episode 4: When to Use Open-Ended and Matrix Questions

In this episode of Survey Makeover, Sarah Cho (our very own Survey Pro) tackles two very popular and very tricky question types: the open-ended and the matrix. Find out when they’re appropriate to use and when a standard closed-ended question might serve you better.

Take a look as Sarah updates an employee onboarding survey from our friends at ICANN.

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  • Chrishantha Goonathillaka


  • Bruno Verschraegen

    I tend to have a different opinion on two suggestions made in this episode. I feel they are made for the comfort of who designs/analyses the survey but are making for lesser experience for the respondent.

    1) Removing the N/A option is often utterly frustrating for the person needing/wanting to fill out a survey. It feels as if you are ‘tricked’ into providing a response – even if in reality the response would be Not Applicable. It has happened to me more than one time, sometimes even to an extent that I opted out of completing the questionnaire. If the question is well crafted and relevant, people for whom it applies will answer. Forcing them to make a choice for an answer if it isn’t applicable is anyway skewing the results.Since you have now introduced the possibility to filter out ‘undesired’ answers and recalculate, having some or even N/A’s is not really a problem. Two more considerations on this topic: a) having many N/A’s should make the survey designer think b) I never put N/A since many respondents may not be native English speakers and always spell out Not Applicable to avoid misinterpretation.

    2) You suggest not to have a ‘more comments’ or ‘I would also like to add’ box after every question and to replace that by a single comments box at the end. Again this is looking at it from the survey designer/analyser point of view, not that of the user. I personally like it when there is the possibility to provide additional comments right near the very closed question. When someone has nothing to add, he/she simply doesn’t write anything in the box and moves on to the next question. I am also of the opinion that seeing comments in direct relation to a specific question is also better for the organisation that commissioned the survey; it provides more useful and granular feedback than a single box at the end.

    • KTsurveymonkey

      Those are important points too, Bruno! Finding the happy medium between the respondent experience and the creator is key. It can be a tricky process, as we are all unique- but in the end what will create the most honest data and what works best for a specific survey will be the bottom line. It’s true it won’t always match up for respondent and creator, but we hope that our tips and tricks from our experts will help close that gap!

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