Journal of Official Statistics, Vol.26, No.2, 2010. pp. 271285

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Effects of Answer Space Size on Responses to Open-ended Questions in Mail Surveys

Open-ended questions can provide valuable information to help researchers understand a respondent’s thinking but using such questions has proven problematic in mail surveys. Experimental data are used to assess the impact of answer space size on the length and content of responses to two open-ended questions that are part of Florida Cooperative Extension’s customer satisfaction survey. Based on 2,200 responses collected from 2003 to 2006, the size of the answer space showed no effect on the propensity to answer, but did affect the length of the response, with larger spaces eliciting more words and themes. In addition, larger spaces were more likely to have details elaborated. These results suggest that it is better to design larger answer spaces to more fully capture high-quality responses.

Visual design, question structure, response quality

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