Pre coded open questions – Qualitative Analysis

Frequently with interview-administered surveys, a list of pre-codes is provided with open questions for the interviewer’s use.This may simply be a brand list in which to code the response to questions such as ‘Which brand of breakfast cereal did you eat today?’ or i may be used in order to categorise more complex responses.

This requires the questionnaire writer to second-guess what the range of responses is going to be. It is usually done to save time and the cost of coding open ended question verbatim responses.This approach might also be used to try to provide some consistency of response by forcing the open responses into a limited number of options. It is important that there is always a space provided for the respondent or interviewer to write n answers that are not covered by pre codes.It is unlikely that the questionnaire will have thought of every possible responses that will be written in as ‘other answers’.However,there is still a danger that respondents or interviewers will try to force respondents or interveiwers will try to force responses that is close to, but does not quite fit, one of the pre-codes.

The richness and illustrative power of the verbatim answer is lost by providing pre-codes, as are any subtle distinctions between responses,but the processing time and cost will be reduced.Consistency with other surveys may also be increased.  

The code list may be based on qualitative research that has suggested the range of answers that could be accepted or on the results of previous studies. 

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