May 7, 2018

Open questions in surveys are a great idea. But often, we don’t really have time to looking at them in detail.

Here’s a suggestion to make more use of data from your open questions.

Suppose you have just implemented a survey on attitudes to public transport, which includes three groups of numerical questions on which the respondents rate the local transport system on frequency of use, convenience and value. And suppose you’d thoughtfully added an open question asking for more information on those answers.

Try making a chart with the total or mean scores on the two groups of numerical questions on the x- and y-axes, and add the answers to the open question as a third column to give the tooltips. Something like this.

It encourages the reader to look more closely at individuals who are extreme in one way or the other … who are the people who think the system is convenient but too expensive? And what about the typical” people in the middle?

The easiest way to do this is probably in in Tableau Public - look here.

I also tried the same trick in Google Fusion Tables: here’s the template, you can copy it and adjust it to your needs. The chart above is produced live from the Fusion Table. You can do something similar in Excel, but you have to publish the workbook as an Excel macro-enabled file, which might scare some people. Of course, you can add other columns too, for example to show gender using colours. However, it doesn’t seem to be maintained any more.

Sensemaker® uses some ideas like this too.

With Google charts it is not too difficult to construct the html, but it isn’t so easy to connect the html version to a database, e.g. a Google sheet. in the point-and-click version, when you embed a chart within a Google sheet, data connection is trivial but you can’t customise the tooltips.


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