What Response Scales may Tell your Respondents: Informative Functions of Response Alternatives

  • Norbert Schwarz
  • Hans-J. Hippler
Part of the Recent Research in Psychology book series (PSYCHOLOGY)


One of the most extensively discussed (though not most extensively researched, see Converse, 1984) issues in the literature on survey methodology is the choice between an open - or a closed - response format. Researchers are usually advised to use open-ended questions sparingly because they are time consuming, expensive, and difficult to analyze (e.g., Sheatsley, 1985; Sudman & Bradburn, 1983). In fact, “despite a few exceptions, the results of social surveys today are based mainly on what are varyingly called closed, fixed-choice, or precoded questions” (Schuman & Presser, 1981, p. 79). According to textbook: recommendations, the construction of precoded questions should be based on the responses to open-ended questions obtained during pilot studies.


Response Scale Social Comparison Response Alternative Target Behavior Survey Methodology 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Norbert Schwarz
    • 1
  • Hans-J. Hippler
    • 2
  1. 1.University of HeidelbergGermany
  2. 2.Center for Surveys, Methods and AnalysisMannheimGermany

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