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  • Writer's pictureElliot Fern

The power of "Other," "Don't know," & "None of the above" Give respondents a path to the finish line

Updated: Jun 24, 2023

When designing surveys, it's essential to prioritise the respondent's experience while ensuring accurate and meaningful data collection. One effective way to achieve this balance is by including options such as "Other (please specify)"," "Don't Know," and "None of the Above" in survey questions. In this blog, we'll explore why incorporating these options is crucial for respondents to navigate surveys successfully, resulting in improved data quality and a positive survey experience.

  1. Inclusivity and Accuracy: Not every respondent will fit neatly into predefined response categories. By providing an "Other" option, you allow participants to express their unique perspectives, experiences, or preferences that may not be covered by the given choices. This inclusivity ensures that respondents' voices are heard, enhancing the accuracy and richness of data collected.

  2. Avoiding Forced Responses: Forcing respondents to choose an option when they genuinely don't have knowledge or an opinion can lead to inaccuracies in the data. Including a "Don't Know" option empowers respondents to acknowledge their lack of knowledge or uncertainty. This option maintains data integrity by preventing respondents from guessing or selecting an arbitrary response, which can skew the results.

  3. Acknowledging Alternative Perspectives: Some survey questions may not resonate with certain respondents, leading them to feel disconnected or misunderstood. Incorporating a "None of the Above" option allows respondents to explicitly state that none of the provided choices align with their viewpoint. This option acknowledges and respects diverse perspectives, ensuring that survey results accurately reflect the spectrum of opinions.

  4. Enhancing User Experience: A positive survey experience encourages respondents to engage fully, leading to improved response rates and data quality. Providing options like "Other," "Don't Know," and "None of the Above" demonstrates that you value their input and respect their unique perspectives. This inclusivity promotes a sense of validation and encourages respondents to complete the survey with confidence and satisfaction.

  5. Data Analysis and Insights: Including these options in survey questions also benefits data analysis. By identifying patterns in "Other" responses, researchers can discover emerging themes or valuable insights that may inform future decision-making or research directions. Additionally, tracking "Don't Know" or "None of the Above" responses can help identify knowledge gaps or areas where further investigation is needed.

  6. There may be an exception: Perhaps you want to force the respondent to agree or disagree with a statement e.g. To what extent do you agree that the Royal Family is important? Excluding 'Don't know' or 'Neither agree nor disagree' may make the respondent give extra thought to the question and provide you an answer with which side of the fence they sit on, even if it is marginal. However be wary, this may not give a truly accurate picture of your audience and the number which may be 'indifferent'. This could be more useful if you are having to decide between Concept A and Concept B and a definitive answer is needed. Alternatively asking why users 'don't know' may give more clues as to what information thy need to decide (see point 5).

Conclusion. With the inclusion of "Other," "Don't Know," and "None of the Above" options, you can create surveys that not only yield reliable data but also make respondents feel heard, valued, and motivated to participate fully - reaching the finish line and increasing completion rates!

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