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Shortcut Week: Corinne Poth on Skip Logic for Online Surveys

I am Corinne Poth and I want to think about shortcuts in surveys. Not so much shortcuts in creating your survey, but more shortcuts that help your respondents to respond to your survey in the shortest path possible. Towards that end (and with her blessing), I thought that I would add to the first post from Susan Kistler’s series on online surveying.

Lesson Learned – Key Definition – Skip Logic or Branching: When we wrote surveys on paper, you would see instructions that said something like “If you answered ‘yes’ to question 3, please proceed to question 10 and do not answer questions 4-9.” That is skip logic – skipping you to a new question based on your answer to a particular question.

Hot Tip: Most survey platforms now allow you to integrate skip logic right into the question so that whenever your respondent chooses a particular option, she or he then is skipped automatically to the appropriate next question.

Using skip logic allows you to gather more targeted information, decrease errors in responses, and shorten the time needed for a respondent to complete a survey. It basically is a built-in shortcut for your respondents!

Hot Tip: You may want to avoid numbering your questions as respondents may get confused when they jump from question 3 to question 10 without actually seeing any of the questions in the middle or doing anything on their part.

Lesson Learned: Integrating skip logic can mean that it takes more time to prepare your survey, both in terms of entering it into the survey platform, as well as for pilot testing. If you use skip logic, be sure to pilot test all paths through your survey to ensure that all is working well. With multiple skips, this can take time and it should be done systematically. We usually create a tree structure on paper – even just a sketch – that illustrates all of the paths through a survey for testing.

Lesson Learned: Be sure to examine what happens in your survey if someone does not answer a question on which a skip logic is based. Some platforms automatically make skip logic questions validated, forcing an answer, others move automatically to the next question in a series.

Lesson Learned: Skip logic is often an upgraded or more advanced function. It may not be built into the least expensive version of a survey platform. When you are looking at a list of functions or capacities for your platform, seek out “branching” or “skip logic.”

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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