The importance of the ‘Other’
We can all agree that recruitment questionnaires are getting longer. Quotas on respondents are multiplying and the average time for ‘screening’ is a minimum of 15-20 minutes. You have the generic demographic and past participation questions (vital if you want proof that you are doing your due diligence when looking for the right respondents), and the end confirmation where you have to ensure that all respondents give their informed consent to take part and be recorded. In between are arguable your most important questions – the quota identifying ones.
We all know that if there are gaps in the screener, however small, you may end up with the wrong respondents, which is anyone’s worst nightmare. This means that your average screener is filled with little one off questions for every separate bit of information, lengthening the process. This, we know, is not ideal. People work, people are busy, if they have to go through a 20 minute questionnaire just to find out whether they can take part in the research, it may put them off or may mean that you have to schedule a time suitable to them (meaning that for short turn around projects, you are often working into the night to get the respondents!)
However, there is one part of a question that we really cannot remove. Looking through questions and consolidating them, the one thing that pops up as ‘oh, that’s important’ is ‘The other’, and also includes ‘None of the above’. We cannot lead respondents in any way, and arguably, open questions are the best way to do this, but when looking for awareness, we need to include the big brand lists, when ascertaining whether they use premium products or value products, we need the big brand lists. But we also need ‘The other’.
The other means that people feel more comfortable giving their honest answers, and should be included in every list or multiple choice question. Without it, respondents may feel that they need to choose one of the given options to be included in the research, and it may not always be honest.
Best practice? There are many, but advocating the open question is the best way to get honest opinions from respondents. But ‘The Other’ is not to be over-looked. Reducing screener size? Well that’s the next step.