We often get questions from new SurveyPro users regarding the difference between the first two built-in scales, Short Countable Written — Single Answer and Short Countable Written — Multiple Answers. Considering that they are both open-ended answers, it is easy to be confused with how SurveyPro will treat your comment type answers.
The best way to look at these two scales is to compare them to a feature normally only found in checkbox scales. And that feature is the multiple response, ‘Check all that apply’ option you can implement in a custom scale.
Let’s use an example of snack foods. You could created a scale used to answer the question ‘Which is your favorite snack food?’ with answers being chips, popcorn, candy, gum, rice cakes, and fruit. The scale would be set to single answer because you want to know only their favorite snack.
But say that the question reads ‘Which snack foods to you purchase at least once a month? (Check all that apply)’. You could have the same list of answers, but by setting the option to ‘Multiple’ on the scale definition dialog you would allow for more than one answer.
The Short Countable Written answers work in the same way. The first choice is considered to be a single checkbox scale sort of answer. Whatever is written there will be binned and countable in it’s entirety. But, the second choice allows for multiple responses within the same text entry. By separating the different choices by semicolons you can create the same multiple answer allowed scale, but for comment type answers.
So, by using the Short Countable Written — Multiple answers scale to the question ‘Which snack foods to you purchase at least once a month?’ and instructing your respondents to separate answers with semicolons, you might see an answer like ‘corn chips; chewing gum; snickers bars’. These three answers would then be binned as separate virtual checkbox scale responses and could be reported upon much like a standard multiple checkbox scale.
This will obviously allow your respondents to be more precise in their answers and allow you to be more precise in how you report on these answers. It can be a win-win for everyone involved.