Mandatory (required) questions

April 18, 2017

In Survey Solutions any question may be left unanswered for reasons beyond the control of the questionnaire designer. The respondent may refuse to answer a particular question, don’t know the answer, or a family member may be unavailable for answering.

Every once in a while our support team is receiving questions on how to designate a question “required”, so that the interview may not proceed unless this particular question is answered. The justification could be that the answer is critically important to determine subsequent trajectory through the questionnaire: eligible/non-eligible for interview, treated/controls, etc.

A typical user would attempt to “make” the question mandatory by writing a validation condition, such as
IsAnswered(self) and a validation message “Error! Please provide an answer to this question!”. This doesn’t achieve the objective, since Survey Solutions validates the answers to the questions, and if there is no answer, there is nothing to validate, while if there is an answer, then the result of this expression is always true.

The requirement for the question to be answered is not the property of that question, but rather the property of the questionnaire containing that question. The designer of the questionnaire should decide, what should be the consequence for the interviewing process if the question is not answered. In most cases some further information may still be acquired, but occasionally this would mean the end of the interview. In that case the designer should apply the condition IsAnswered(self) as enabling (not validation) condition for all the subsequent questions. Note that this is much easier if these questions are contained in different sections, in which case one can apply one condition for the whole section.