Glossary of questionnaire terms

For questionnaire development (with thanks to Statistics New Zealand for allowing use of their glossary).

Action buttons

Buttons or which allow respondents to take a certain action within the survey. For example, going to the next or previous pages, submitting the survey, or, saving the survey.

Automated functions

Automated functions includes calculations using respondents' answers, routing, and if necessary, the ability to navigate to different sections within a questionnaire.

Drop-down boxes

Drop-down boxes are a type of response format where a respondent has to click on the box to reveal response options, find their response option and click on that option.

Hard edits

A hard edit is triggered when an answer does not comply with the edit rules and is outside a list of likely responses. Respondents' answers must be corrected to one that is accepted as a response. The 'suppress' button on the appearing error message is not active and respondents cannot continue with the questionnaire until they have corrected their answer to a likely response.

Hover-over function

When respondents hover their mouse over the question to retrieve help notes or bilingual translation.

Hybrid scroll page design

A hybrid scroll design is a questionnaire which has questions grouped onto one page which respondents need to scroll to get to, but they also need to click to the next page to get to the next set of questions. This design is complex and should be avoided.


An insert is used to make questions more flexible and personalised. For example if the relevant information is known, electronic questionnaires can automatically insert "he is" or "you are" etc.

Line spacing (or leading)

The vertical space between lines of text.

Matrix questions

A matrix question has two or more columns of response options that a respondent must read and select an answer from each column.

Multiple response questions

Multiple response questions allow respondents to select more than one response.

Page-by-page design

A page-by-page design is a questionnaire with one question per page unless some questions are grouped and fit onto one screen. To get to further questions, respondents need to click to the next page. All questions are visible on one screen.

Primacy effects

A tendency to select from the first few options presented in a list of responses or instructions.

Procedural instruction

An instruction which tells respondents how to complete a certain task such as clicking on the arrow of a drop-down box to find their answer.

Ragged right margin

A ragged right margin means text has not been justified, therefore text lines do not all end at the same point.

Response format instruction

An instruction which tells respondents how to respond to a question, for example, "Select the group or groups which.." or "Select one answer only."

Scalar questions

Scalar questions ask respondents to choose one answer from a scale.

Scroll page design

A scrolling design is a questionnaire with all questions on one page and respondents have to scroll to get to all the questions. This design is depicted by a scrolling bar on the right hand side of the page.

Soft edits

A soft edit is triggered when an answer does not comply with the edit rules and is outside the list of likely responses. If an unlikely answer is entered an error message appears on the screen. The respondent can then choose to confirm the response or suppress the edit.

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