Nominal data, as a subset of the term “Data /deɪtə/ or data /dətə/”as you may choose to call it, is the foundation of statistical analysis and all other mathematical sciences. They are individual pieces of information recorded and used for the purpose of analysis.

When studying data, we consider 2 variables – numerical and categorical. Numerical variables are classified into continuous and discrete data, while categorical variables are broken down into nominal and ordinal data.

In data analysis, proper classification and consumption of data are highly dependent on one’s understanding of what data is. Therefore, in this article, we will be explicitly discussing Nominal data and how you can use Formplus for seamless Nominal data collection.

Definition of Nominal Data 

Nominal data (also known as nominal scale) is a classification of categorical variables, that do not provide any quantitative value. Coined from the Latin nomenclature “Nomen” (meaning name), it is sometimes called “labeled” or “named” data. In some cases, nominal data may qualify as both quantitative and qualitative.

Unlike ordinal data, which includes something like “critical” or “low” in the case of bug severity, it includes examples like gender, country, marital status, etc. Due to its lack of quantitativeness, Nominal data classification can only be done using mode and not mean. 

Read Also: What is Ordinal Data? Examples, Category Variables & Analysis

Nominal Data Collection Techniques 

Nominal data collection techniques are mainly question-based due to their “nominal” nature. It is collected via questions that either require the respondent to give an open-ended answer or choose from a given list of options. For example:

  • “What is your name?” (followed by a blank text box)
  • “Which country are you from?” (followed by a drop-down list of countries in the world).

Open-Ended Questions

This technique provides the respondent with the opportunity to give a nonrestrictive answer to the question. In this case, the question is usually followed by a text box.

Although, the text box may be given other restrictions like the length of words or characters, input type, language, etc. These restrictions serve more as a guide to answering correctly than a limitation placed on the respondent’s answer. For example:

  • Case 1: Let us consider a case whereby the respondent is being asked, “What is your gender?” and the available options are “male” and “female”. Here, we see that the questionnaire is dismissing the non-binary gender spectrum by limiting the respondent to only 2 options. This case is not open-ended.
  • Case 2: If the question says, “What is your National Identification Number?”, the text box will only accommodate numbers and not letters. The respondent will automatically meet with an error message if a letter is inputted. This case is open-ended because the restriction is a guide to assist the respondent in giving a correct answer.

Some other open-ended questions are; “What is your name?”, “What is the name of your favorite pet?”, “Who is your hair color?”, etc. 


Open Ended Questions [ Nominal Data]

Pros of Open-Ended Questions

  • It gives room for inclusion. E.g. If Case 1 above were treated as an open-ended question, it will give room for the specification of other genders.
  • It gives the respondents the opportunity to express themselves freely.

Cons of Open-Ended Questions

  • Researchers sometimes have to deal with irrelevant data. Especially when dealing with ignorant respondents who give wrong answers.
  • Not the best option for great user experience. Some respondents find typing very tiring.

Multiple Response Choice Questions

This technique gives room for more than one answer to a question. It puts into consideration the fact that humans may fall into different categories of classification at a time.

This technique is usually implemented with the use of checkboxes. The questionnaire asks a question with a prompt like, “Choose the one that applies to you”. 

However, in some cases, the responders are given some restrictions like, “you can only check not more than 3 boxes”. That way, the responders can only check 3 boxes. Below are some examples of Multiple Response Choice questions with and without restrictions. 

  1. Which of the following courses would you like to register for? (Choose any 3)
  • Web development
  • Product design
  • Graphics design
  • Content writing
  • Animation

nominal data examples

Multiple Response Questions

     II.  What toppings would you like on your pizza? 

  • Pepperoni
  • Sausage
  • Spinach
  • Sardines
  • Extra Cheese

In example I. above, the respondent is restricted to choosing only 3 out of the 5 available courses. However, the second example gives the respondents the opportunity to choose as many toppings as they like. 

Read Also: The 4,5, and 7 Point Likert Scale + [Questionnaire Examples]

Pros of Multiple Response Questions

  • It is user-centric. Responders don’t have to deal with the tiring process of typing responses.
  • It helps researchers collect relevant data.

Cons of Multiple Response Questions

  • Responders are not allowed the flexibility of fully expressing themselves.
  • It restricts answers to a specific set of available options.

Close-Open Ended Questions

This technique combines the characteristics of open-ended questions and multiple-response choice questions to make up its own. In other words, we can say Close-Open ended questions are close (multiple choice) questions with an open end.

The open end, in this case, is an option for “Others” where respondents can write their response if it’s not on the list. The hybrid nature of this technique makes it the most flexible of the three. 

Similar to the first 2, the close-open-ended technique may also have some restrictions. Below are some examples of Close-Open ended questions.

E.g. Which of the following African countries do you reside in? Others, specify

  • Nigeria
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Uganda
  • Mozambique

      Others ______      


Close-Open Ended Questions

In this example, there are no restrictions placed on the response. 

  • Select the top 3 movies you saw last summer. Others, specify.
  • Avengers
  • Oceans 8
  • Captain Marvel
  • Wonder woman
  • John wick 3

      Others ______

A restriction was placed on the multiple response section of this example. Here, the responders can only check 3 boxes out of the 5 available options. 

However, there is no restriction on the open-ended section. 

Pros of Close-Open-Ended Questions

  • It gives room for responders to fully express themselves.
  • It helps researchers fully capture relevant data.

Cons of Close-Open-Ended Questions

  • Researchers may sometimes have to deal with irrelevant data.

With Formplus’ data collection tool, you can use any of the above techniques to collect Nominal Data with online surveys or questionnaires.

Nominal Data Analysis and Interpretation  

Nominal data can be analyzed using the grouping method. The input nominal variables are grouped together and classified into different categories. For each category, we calculate the percentage or frequency (mode) of the input variables. After this analysis, nominal data can now be interpreted as a bar chart or pie chart. 

The analysis of Nominal Data is based on the percentage and frequency distribution due to its qualitative nature. Even if arranged in ascending or descending order, the mean cannot be calculated. 

Graphical Techniques To Analyse Nominal Data 

When analyzing nominal data, we summarise it into a frequency distribution table, that shows the categories and their counts. That is, the table lists the responses and the number of times they appear in the data set. 

The table can be analyzed through some graphical techniques: pie chart and bar chart. These techniques are applicable to both the entire data in the table and a sample selected from it. 

  • Bar Chart

A bar chart is mainly used for analyzing nominal data. It graphically represents the frequency of each response as a bar rising vertically from the horizontal axis. 

The height of each bar is directly proportional to the frequency of the corresponding response.

  • Pie Chart

The pie chart is also used to analyze nominal data. It is used to represent the percentage frequency of each sample in a set of Nominal data. 

Although, both the bar chart and pie chart are used for analyzing nominal data, they are used in different cases depending on the factor that is being considered. 

The pie chart is mainly used when the researcher is considering the percentage (or fraction) while the bar chart is used when the researcher is considering the frequency (mode) of the distribution. 

Read – Nominal vs Ordinal Data: 13 Key Differences & Similarities

Categories of Nominal Data Variables 

When analyzing nominal data, it is important to classify the data into different categories, according to their differences and similarities. This way, researchers are able to match analyzed data sets with similar unanalyzed data sets against whom the analysis can be assessed.

Nominal data variables with similar characteristics are called Matched samples, while unrelated variables are Unmatched samples. These 2 samples are what make the categories of Nominal Data Variables. 

The Matched Category

In this category, the samples are paired up (or matched together) so that each member of the sample share similar characteristics except for the one under investigation. By matching investigated samples to similar uninvestigated samples, we enable the comparison of outcomes among these samples to estimate the effect of the investigation. 

The main purpose of matching is to get better statistics by controlling the effects of other unwanted variables. For example, when investigating the effects of cancer in women between 25-40 years old, you can control the age-related health effects by matching “age-similar” participants. 


There are 2 different types of tests done on the Matched category, depending on the number of sample groups that are being investigated. 

  • McNemar Test: This is a distribution-free test for paired nominal data.
  • Cochran’s Q Test: This is a non-parametric way of finding differences in matched sets of 3 or more groups.

The Unmatched Category

This is the opposite of the matched category. It is an independent sample of unrelated groups of data. 

Unlike matched pairs that are deliberately chosen, unmatched pairs are usually chosen at random. For example, when investigating whether if certain pregnancy prevention pills are effective or not. Then, you select 100 patients at random without considering their age or any health challenges they might be suffering from. 


  • Fisher’s Exact Test: When dealing with a pair of nominal variables, this test is used to find out if the proportions for a nominal variable are different among values of the other nominal variable. It is used when the expected frequency is less than 5.
  • Chi-Square Test: This test is used to check whether the distribution of nominal variables differs from each other. It is used when the expected frequency is 5 or more.

Uses of Nominal Data 

  • Profiling Respondent: With access to nominal data of a person’s physical traits (eye, skin, and hair color), languages spoken, height, etc., he/she can be racially profiled.
  • Calculate GDP: The real GDP of a country can be calculated by adding the private consumption, gross investment, government investment, and government spending with the difference between the exports and imports.
  • Job Application: Having data on the job seeker’s qualifications will assist the recruiter in making an employment decision.
  • E-Commerce: When placing an order online, customers need to input their details and that of the order, for it to be processed.
  • Online Dating: Online dating platforms request that users enter some information about them in order to match them with potential partners.

Disadvantages of Nominal Data 

  • Responders are unable to express their degree of interest due to a lack of linear scale.
  • Data with multiple modal values are often difficult to interpret.
  • It can never be quantified.

What Is The Best Tool For Collecting Nominal Data? 

Nominal data is a very useful data type for research, business, and economic analysis. Physical (paper) forms are traditionally used to collect nominal data.

With the advent of technology and an increasing number of online businesses, we now have Formplus – the best tool for collecting nominal data. Formplus is an easy-to-use form builder that allows you to create powerful forms within minutes on any device.

Why Use Formplus to Create Online Questionnaires For Nominal Data Collection?  

Collect data in remote locations or places without reliable internet connection with Formplus. Offline forms can also act as a backup to the standard online forms, especially in cases where you have unreliable WiFi, such as large conferences and field surveys.

When responders fill out forms in the offline mode, responses are synced once there is an internet connection. Using conversational SMS, you can collect data on any mobile device without an internet connection.

  • 30+ Field Types
  • With a wide range of field types, you can easily collect validated nominal from your respondents.
  • With any of the 10+ text fields available in Formplus, your respondents can fully express themselves in your questionnaires.
  • Do you need your respondents to give you repeatable data where they specify how many times they want to fill a field?
  • You can also use tables if you need to collect nominal data that is repeatable. 
  • Customization

Formplus gives you the flexibility and freedom to choose how you want your form to look like. With easy-to-use customization options, you can create stylish forms tailored to your brand. Migrate from boring old-school questionnaires to stylish forms that depict your brand identity. There is also a custom CSS feature that gives you extra flexibility.

  • Notifications 

With Formplus, you can receive and route email notifications. Email notifications are sent to you and your team members whenever respondents make submissions. Formplus allows you to choose team members or collaborators that should receive this notification. You can also send a custom confirmation email to responders as a confirmation of their successful submission. 

  • Storage

Formplus allows you to choose how you want to store your responses. You can choose to store them on the Formplus server, your personal server, or a third-party server. You have the freedom to choose one of Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft OneDrive. With unlimited file uploads, users can submit files, photos, or videos via your online forms without any restriction to the size or number of files that can be uploaded

  • Payment

If you run an online business, then you definitely need a gateway that allows you to easily receive payment from any part of the world. With Formplus, you neither have to deal with payment gateway integration nor need a software developer’s assistance. You even have the ability to choose one of Stripe, Paypal, and Flutterwave when setting up payment for your business. Start receiving payments from around the world with just a click. 

  • Security

With Safe and secure forms, you and your responders don’t have to worry about security breaches or information leaking to a third party. Through data encryption, CAPTCHA, and GDPR compliance, Formplus promises the utmost security 100% of the time. The forms are SSL enabled, with an extra layer of security that keeps you safe from spammers and bots.

  • Analytics and Reports

Gather useful insights that inform great business decisions with Formplus. There is an Analytics dashboard that reveals information like the total form views, unique views, abandonment rate, conversion rate, the average time it takes to complete a form, top devices, and the countries your form views are from. This information can be useful for both business and academic research purposes. 

  • Electronic Signature

Your responders no longer have to go through the tedious process of scanning and uploading their signatures in order to fill out online forms. With the E-Signature option, you can get legal consent or endorsement from responders easily. The online signature form is very responsive and easy to use on any device – laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. It doesn’t matter whether these devices have a digital pen or not. All received signatures will appear as images in your cloud storage once they are submitted.

  • Location-Based Forms

With the user’s consent, the location feature allows you to determine the physical location of the person who is filling out your form. This feature uses Google Maps Web Services to pinpoint the nearest physical address. The obtained coordinates are converted to an address and are both included with each submitted response data.

  • Save Forms & Resume Later

Most times when filling out forms, respondents don’t have answers to the questions immediately. But they are forced to fill it out once because coming back to it means losing their previous responses. With Formplus, you can give your form users the opportunity to save partially filled forms and continue filling them at a more convenient time from any device or browser. You don’t have to pressure your respondents to fill out your form at once, they can always return to it when you enable the save and continue option.



  • busayo.longe
  • on 13 min read


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