Requiring Answers with Customer Survey Software
Whether or not to require answers to your questionnaire is a significant decision. All researchers would like all their participants to answer every question, but requiring answers doesn’t always lead to better data. Good customer survey software will let you choose whether to require answers to all, some or none of your questions.
If you do require an answer to a particular question, make sure that everyone taking the survey can pick one of the available choices. For example, don’t ask “Which is your favorite color,” and only offer red, green and blue as choices. Some people may prefer yellow or orange or something else.
If you do require answers to a question and don’t provide options that everyone can comfortably select, you may get misleading results. Some people may pick an answer that doesn’t really reflect their opinion as a way to move on in the survey and get a reward (if you are offering one). Including answers that do not really reflect participant opinions in your analysis is worse than letting people leave an answer blank. One way around this can be to include a “none” or “don’t know” option.
One option for key questions is to first show them without a “none” or “don’t know” option, but not require an answer. Good customer survey software will let you show a second version of the question to people who do not answer the first version. The second version could explain more about why you would really like an answer and then offer one of those additional choices while requiring an answer. Your program should be able to combine the data from the first version of the question with the second version, if you would like it to do so.
There is also an ethical consideration. One shouldn’t cause discomfort in the people taking your survey. Forcing them to choose between choices, when there are none with which they are comfortable causes stress. Also, some people may not be comfortable answering certain types of questions. Perhaps the most common example is asking people to indicate their family income. Many researchers offer a “prefer not to answer” option to this question. This choice may be appropriate on other questions as well, depending on the nature of your survey.