Very recently, one of our users deployed a survey successfully and then wanted to use our survey analytics tools to analyze the retrieved data. The problem was that one of the questions that they had asked was “How Old Are You?”. Not that there’s anything wrong with asking that question, but, they had asked this question by using a “text response question”. In other words, respondents would type in their ages into the text field. The problem arises when you try to graph such data or use it in a cross tab. Some of the respondents ended up typing in “50 years old” while others may have written “forty-five” while another person may have written “forty five” (i.e. without the “-”). As you can imagine, because this data has no uniformity, it can’t be used in a graph or in a cross-tab. If this question were to be used in graphs/cross-tabs, it would have had to be posed as “Choose the age-range that you are in from the choices below” and been asked as a drop-down or multiple choice question. If the question would have been posed as such, there would have been a lot more that could’ve been done with the analytics tools.
Takeaway: Don’t use text response question types if you intend to analyze that data using graphs / cross-tabs.