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Weighting Responses in Your Survey for Healthy Data

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Weighting Responses in Your Survey for Healthy Data

watch survey weightsAs winter starts to melt away, many of us begin to realize that swimsuit season is right around the corner. But when it comes to watching your weight in the survey world, we have a far easier solution than hitting the gym!

We also weigh our decisions, values, and relationships. But how does this idea relate to your survey? And why should you be watching your weight?

The answer is actually quite simple. The idea behind using weights is that you can assign a numerical value to answer choices, which will then be reflected in your analysis. Here’s what to consider when using weights.

Why bother weighting survey responses?

Percentages, the most common way to analyze survey data, represent a portion of the respondents—but weights allow you to examine your data in a way that includes the responses of every single person who answered a question.

This can provide you with a different perspective or new insight that you wouldn’t have gleaned if you just looked at the percentages or raw numbers.

Weights relate specifically to our Matrix and Ranking question types. With matrix-style questions, you are able to create your own custom weight for each answer option in the scale. And with a ranking question, a fixed weight is already assigned for each answer option.

Still intrigued? Of course you are! Now let’s break down how to weight responses for each of these question types.

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How to weight responses: Matrix style

The Matrix (also known as the Rating Scale) question type allows you to create a question with the same rating scale applied to multiple questions. Each question is a row in the matrix, and the scale is formed by each of the columns. This question type will allow you to customize the value of the weight you attribute to each answer option.

Weights1

As seen in the screenshot above, the values are assigned as 1-5, though you’ll notice you are able to edit this value. This is helpful for a couple of reasons.

Oftentimes, you may want to create a scale that attributes both negative and positive values to answer choices, such as creating weights between -2 through 2. This allows you to attribute a negative or positive feeling to a set of choices.

Weights2

For example, if you asked your employees if they were content with management and wanted to be sure to pick up on employee dissatisfaction, you could assign a larger negative value to the negative feeling.

Before you assign a weight to your Matrix question, make sure you think through whether you even need a weight. For example, if you ask a Matrix question about which cell phone companies you associate with words like high quality or low cost, getting a weighted average of 3.4 won’t tell you whether people associate quality with Apple or Samsung.

Many questions don’t need a weight, so uncheck the Use Weights option in the Design page to clear out unnecessary weights in your Analyze page.

One last thing to note when using the Matrix question— you’re able to add, adjust, or remove weights from the design section of your survey while the survey is live.

Weighting survey responses for your Ranking questions

When it comes to the Ranking question type, the weights have already been applied to the numbered scale for you. These questions typically ask respondents to rank a list of options based on the item they prefer most to the item they prefer the least.

Weights3

In a Ranking question, the more an individual prefers an option (i.e., the closer the option is to 1) the larger the weight associated with this selection. Think about it as the weight of importance: The more important the option is to a respondent, the more weight is attributed to it (and vice versa).

So what are some of the reasons to use a Ranking question over a Matrix question, you ask? Well, a Ranking question is more straightforward than a Rating question—it simply looks at the respondent’s preference between a group of options. Because the respondents have the same comparisons or group of options in mind, often this can result in more reliable data.

Also, you don’t need to assign a weight to each answer choice, as this is automatically already done for you. But note, while it is a no brainer for the survey creator to assign weights in a Ranking question, it may be difficult for the respondent to answer, particularly if two options are equally important since each option needs to be assigned a different rank.

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  • marniesinger

    Wow, is your use of the word “weight” here confusing to someone who has done more sophisticated survey analysis, in which weights are applied to the data to adjust for stratified sample design. I would venture to say that no one using SurveyMonkey is working from a stratified sample. Wouldn’t it have been more clear to talk about calculating means of rankings or Likert scale responses?

  • Abdul Aziz Al Nahdi

    how to remove the weight from a question? i couldn’t find any option to remove it.

    • MFsurveymonkey

      Hello Abdul,

      There would not be a way to remove the weights if you already collected responses on your rating scale question, but for future surveys, you might want to go for a multiple choice question: http://help.surveymonkey.com/articles/en_US/kb/Multiple-Choice

      Hope it helps!

      • ab

        kt, can you ADD weights after you’ve collected responses? i have a survey where i failed to add the weights to rating matrix and already sent out survey. thx for any suggestions on how to add my weights within SM (vs manually formulating). AB

  • Vincent Giolito

    Hi,
    I used weights in my surveys however the Individual responses data sheets report column heads for each respondants instead of weights. How come? More important, how can I get weights instead?

  • MFsurveymonkey

    Hi Rose! I see what you’d like do here, and you can of course design your survey as a quiz or test, but there isn’t a way to program which answer choice is “correct”, or to calculate a grade or score within SurveyMonkey at this moment. You’d have to export your survey responses and grade them offline.
    Surveys are a bit different than quizzes—the goal of a surveys is usually to collect feedback from a population of respondents to see trends and to gauge overall opinions, while a goal of a quiz is usually to see whether an individual submitted the “correct” answers. So our tools are designed for survey analysis rather than quiz scoring.
    A work-around that could work, would be to apply Skip Logic in your survey. This can be applied to a specific question which will direct respondents to a new page/question or back to a different page or loop back to the previous question.
    This means that you can set the question so if the Respondent selects the “correct” answer, then it will direct them to the next question of the “quiz”; whereas if they select the wrong answer, then you can loop them back to try again or to a different page. Just please bear in mind that you that you still have to manually score the survey.
    For more information about this Logic feature please go here: http://help.surveymonkey.com/articles/en_US/kb/What-is-Skip-Logic

  • MFsurveymonkey

    Hi Warren! Great question! We do offer Quotas as an advanced feature. This enables you to automatically close the survey once the survey reaches a certain ratio of qualified responses. The specifications of the ratio will be completely up to you! Please feel free to find more information about this here: http://help.surveymonkey.com/articles/en_US/kb/What-are-Quotas

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