Quality & Quantity

, Volume 50, Issue 6, pp 2495–2513 | Cite as

Open narrative questions in PC and smartphones: is the device playing a role?

  • Melanie RevillaEmail author
  • Carlos Ochoa


Most survey questions are closed questions, where respondents have to select an answer from a proposed set of alternatives. However, a lot of surveys also include, at least occasionally, some open questions. Open questions that call for elaborated and developed answers, called “open narrative questions”, are used when the researchers want to go deeper into what the respondents think. This paper compares the answers to open narrative questions when the respondent is participating in a PC survey, in a smartphone-not-optimised survey or in a smartphone-optimised survey. The experiment was carried out in Spain using data collected by the Netquest online access panel. Respondents were assigned randomly to each type of device and survey format, in two successive waves. Because respondents have to type in their answer, we expect differences between devices, linked with the size and the kind of keyboards (i.e. physical versus digital, touch-screen or not). Differences are observed between answers that come from PCs and smartphones for the response time per written character, for the number of total characters and for the use of abbreviations, but not for the non-answer and non-substantive responses. No differences are observed between optimised and not optimised versions for smartphones, except for the response time per character written.


Web surveys Smartphones Mobile optimised questionnaires Open narrative questions Response time 



We are very grateful to the Netquest team for the support in planning and collecting the necessary data. We would also like to thank Daniele Toninelli for his help in designing the experiment and his very useful comments on a previous draft of this paper, and the anonymous reviewers who gave us many valuable suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RECSM-Universitat Pompeu FabraBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.NetquestBarcelonaSpain

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