Question wording and response formats

Recommendations

In terms of question design, wording obviously matters - and comparable measures require comparable wording. Effective translation procedures are therefore particularly important for international comparability.

  • • The length of the reference period is also critical for affect measures. From the perspective of obtaining accurate reports of affect actually experienced, reports over a period of around 24 hours or less are recommended. Evaluative and eudaimonic measures are intended to capture constructs spanning a much longer time period, but there is less evidence available regarding the ideal reference period to use.
  • • Variation in response formats can affect data quality and comparability - including between survey modes. In the case of evaluative measures, there is empirical support for the common practice of using 0-10 point numerical scales, anchored by verbal labels that represent conceptual absolutes (such as completely satisfied/completely dissatisfied). On balance, it seems preferable to label scale interval-points (between the anchors) with numerical, rather than verbal, labels, particularly for longer response scales.
  • • The order in which response categories are presented to respondents may be particularly important for telephone-based interviews and where each response category is given a verbal label. For numerical scales, this is likely to be less important, although consistent presentation of options from lowest (e.g. 0) to highest (e.g. 10) may be helpful in reducing respondent burden.
  • • In the case of affect measures, unipolar scales (i.e. those reflecting a continuous scale focused on only one dimension - such as those anchored from never/not at all through to all the time/completely) are desirable, as there are advantages to measuring positive and negative affect separately.
  • • For life evaluations and eudaimonia, there is less evidence on scale polarity. What information is available suggests that bipolar and unipolar measure produce very similar results for life evaluation measures, but bipolar scales may be confusing for respondents when evaluative questions are negatively-framed.
 
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