Sometimes, “maybes and don’t knows” just won’t cut it in research. You need people to provide exact answers that are either negative or positive. Including one or more forced choice questions in your questionnaire is a sure-fire way to achieve this.
When you remove neutral options from closed-ended survey questions, respondents must provide definite answers; they cannot sit on the fence. Use this guide to learn when and how to include forced-choice questions in your surveys.
A forced choice question requires the respondent to provide a specific answer. This type of question eliminates in-between options, forcing survey participants to be for or against a statement.
Participants’ indecision is every researcher’s worst nightmare. The primary reason for administering surveys and questionnaires is to gather actionable responses. When participants opt for in-between answers like “indifferent,” “neither likely nor unlikely,” or “somewhere in the middle,” it affects the quality of your survey results—you cannot drive decisions on neutral data.
Forced questions prompt people to choose the most plausible option from the bunch. Sometimes, these questions have only two extreme and opposing options. In some other instances, they are structured as Likert scale questions or morph into other question formats.
Most forced-choice questions are structured as stand-alone questions, allowing respondents to consider each one deeply before picking the most appropriate response. Instead of placing the questions in a matrix scale or using checkboxes, the researcher asks each one separately, even when they have the same options.
A dichotomous question is a type of close-ended question that provides respondents with only two possible answer options, typically extremes like yes/no, true/false, agree/disagree. It requires the respondent to choose one option that they best identify with.
Dichotomous questions are best in quantitative research when one needs to gather numerical data. However, when you want to know someone’s emotional disposition or perception of a particular question, a dichotomous question is not a suitable method of investigation.
1. Did you enjoy this event?
2. The value of the product matches its pricing.
1. Dichotomous questions are simple to create and easy to answer.
2. They work best for factual reporting.
1. It doesn’t provide enough insights into the reasons for customer’s choices. It’s hard to know why they opted for an answer.
2. It limits the choices for respondents by providing only two answers.
Unlike dichotomous questions that restrict you to only two options, multiple-choice questions provide over two viable answer options to a question. A simple multiple-choice question comprises three parts—the stem, correct answer, and detractors.
Common types of multiple-choice questions include single-select questions, drop-down menu questions, and multi-select questions. The respondent only had to pick one option from the list of viable options in a single select question. A multi-select question allows you to choose over one option—sometimes, you’re allowed to select all applicable options.
The drop-down variation presents the question and options using a drop-down menu, which differs from the radio or checkbox field structure. Multiple-choice questions may also have images as options, depending on the research objectives.
1. Which one is your preferred color?
2. When is your favorite time of the day?
3. How many cities have you lived in? Choose all applicable options.
1. Multiple-choice questions are straightforward to answer. Survey participants only have to choose their preferred answers from the provided options.
2. It is helpful for qualitative data collection.
3. It is time-efficient.
1. Sometimes, none of the options are actual representations of a participant’s point of view or experience.
2. It can lead to survey response bias.
3. Leading and loaded questions can affect the quality of data from the research process.
A rating question is a close-ended survey question that allows respondents to measure their perception of a particular subject using a comparative scale. Respondents choose a numeric or qualitative measure that represents how they feel about the issue.
A rating scale question may ask respondents to show the extent to which they agree or disagree with a particular statement. You can ask this type of question with a semantic differential scale that associates qualitative options with the participant’s experiences in some other instances.
1. On a scale of 1–4, how likely are you to recommend our business?
2. To what extent do you enjoy visiting us?
3. How would you rate your experience at the party?
Formplus supports online and offline data collection through a series of features and integrations. Here is a step-by-step guide to creating practical forced choice survey questions with Formplus.
1. Log into your existing Formplus account or sign up for a new account here.
2. Click on the “create new form” button on your dashboard to access the form builder. You also have access to over 1,000 ready-to-use templates for unique data collection needs on your dashboard.
3. On the left side of the form builder, you’d find 30 different field options for forced-choice questions. Drag and drop preferred fields into the work area. For example, if you’re adding multiple-choice questions, click on the “choice” option and choose “basic select” or “multiple select.”
4. After adding the fields, click on the pencil icon to edit each one. You can add questions to each field in the “edit” section. You can also apply conditional logic or hide some fields.
5. Click on the envelope-like icon to save all the changes made to your form. This action automatically takes you to the form customization section.
6. Use the different customization options to change the look and feel of your form without a single line of code. You can add preferred background images to your form, include your organization’s icon and change the form font with CSS.
7. Copy the form link and share it with survey participants. You can explore more form sharing options in the builder’s sharing section.
Imagine having a 6-point Likert scale with no indifferent options; this type of scale passes for a forced-choice scale.
A forced-choice scale is a type of survey scale that doesn’t account for neutral or in-between options. It is also referred to as an ipsative scale.
Like in forced-choice questions, the idea behind this type of scale is to force respondents to express an idea or opinion firmly for or against. In qualitative research, forced-choice scales allow you to gather in-depth feedback that reveals respondent’s personalities.
A Likert scale measures the extent to which survey participants agree or disagree with a specific subject using psychometric testing. Its options range from one extreme to another, from opposing a subject to complete agreement.
Likert scales contain scale points that serve as the benchmark for measurement. Hence, you can have a 4-point scale, 5-point scale, and even 7-point scale, depending on your data collection process. Forced choice Likert scales have even-numbered scales because of the exclusion of the neutral option.
Apart from measuring the extent to which survey respondents agree or disagree with a subject, Likert scales also measure importance, likelihood, quality, frequency, and other similar variations.
1. On a scale of 1–6, how likely are you to buy this product?
2. How important is this feature to you?
In a rating scale, survey respondents can measure their feelings, perceptions, and preferences using comparative options. Rating scales use quantitative and qualitative attributes to evaluate how people feel about a particular statement.
Rating scales use qualitative descriptions as options; they also use emojis and symbols. For example, you may be asked to rate your satisfaction with a product using a 5-star rating scale or an image scale.
1. How often do you go to the mall?
2. Which of these options best describes your experience with our product?
A numerical scale is a rating scale with numbers as options; each number represents a qualitative value. For example, in an NPS survey, participants choose numbers to show how likely they are to recommend the product or service to others.
Numeric scales are also used to measure pain thresholds for adults, that is, how much pain one can endure before snapping. Here, you have a 10-point scale which measures 0-10 — with 0 as no pain and 10 as the worst pain imaginable.
The best time to use forced-choice questions is when you want survey participants to provide definite answers to your questions or when specific positive or negative responses would significantly affect your research results.
Other advantages of forced-choice questions include:
Should you eliminate neutral options from your surveys? No. Your audience should have some leeway to lean towards ambiguous responses at different points in your survey. Consider including a “not applicable” option in the place of “neutral or indifferent” answer choices.
Before listing forced-choice questions in your survey, be sure that survey respondents have above-average knowledge of the subject. If participants haven’t used your product before, asking them to provide definite answers will affect the quality of survey responses.
You want to make sure your survey data account for the realistic judgment of your target market.
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