Google launched its DIY research tool, Google Consumer Surveys, with just 7 question types, as we have written.┬á Then, we told you that Google expanded that list to include 9 different question types.
Today, we spy a possible 10th question type, the “open-end,” an opportunity to ask a question and take back unstructured, free-form comments. Here’s how the new, open-ended question type appears in rotation:
The answer text in the above right box is typed by us. We wanted to see if there was a character limit to what you can put into the unstructured field.
We understand why this question might have been written. Because Google straight-jackets the DIY researcher into no more than 5 total answer choices (including “other), a question like the following leaves out one of the most obvious travel websites: hotels.com. So the data collected in the following structured “multiple-choice” question is likely worthless, since one of the most prominent hotel-booking sites is omitted.
But the problem with using an unstructured, open-ended question is that the DIY researcher has to manually examine each answer, and hand-code the data, if the question asked is a quantitative question. (A quantitative question has value only in the sum of the answer choices. In the present case, the researcher does not want to read the answer choices, he just wants to know whether hotels.com beats expedia.com or not. He wants a ranking of answer choices, not expository writing.) A qualitative question is exactly suited to the open-ended question type. A qualitative question has value in the words themselves. Example of a qualitative question: “Why are you so disappointed in your hotel stay last night?” Another example: “What would you like to say to President Obama about his announcement that young illegals will no longer be deported? Please type as much as you’d like in the space below.” In answer to a qualitative question, the researcher does want to read the words typed by the respondent. When properly constructed, a qualitative question gets the respondent to emote, to express himself/herself free-form. There is no telling exactly what you will get back, but what you get back often helps you identify passion, and the intensity respondents feel about a particular issue.
We don’t know for sure whether Google intends to do any compilation of the open-ended answers, because this 10th question type is still in the testing phase. The open-end question type, Question type #10, does not yet appear on the official Google website which still lists only 9 question types.
If Google plans to deliver free-form data back to the DIY researcher, then the test question about hotel websites that we stumbled upon is a bad test case. When Google does make the 10th question type available — let’s call that Release 1.02 of Google Consumer Surveys — we’ll report back further.
If you are not sure about the difference between a quantitative and a qualitative question, consider turning to a professional researcher before starting your DIY research project. A professional researcher will not offer you more help than you need, and will always try to work within your budget.