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What is a Dichotomous Question — Dichotomous Survey & Examples

Kate William

5 July 2022

8 min read

When you are planning survey questions, there will be times when you want to clarify specific information or route participants; this is where dichotomous questions are beneficial.

What are dichotomous questions?

It belongs to the closed-ended question family. A dichotomous questionnaire offers only two possible answers. The dichotomous questions are shown to the survey takers in the following format:

  • Yes or No
  • True or False
  • Agree or Disagree
  • Fair or Unfair
  • Male or Female
  • Up to X and over

Since it narrows down the options available, dichotomous questions are great to clarify or understand something. The participants provide answers that are either this or that, and there is no in-between. When used incorrectly, it can lead to frustration for the respondent.

Where is a dichotomous question used?

They are generally used in market research to filter respondents who don’t belong to specific criteria. Let’s say you want to know if the respondent agrees with something, and then a dichotomous question is proper. Or if you want to find out feedback about your product from people who have purchased your products and those who have not, then it is a great option.

By assigning a value based on their responses, the segmentation of respondents happens. When there are only two possibilities to a question, a dichotomous question is the ideal question type. Dichotomous questions empower the researcher to offer different question sets to corresponding groups.

Dichotomous questions are best used for questions that are easy, short, and simple questions. It is also of great use to simplify the survey experience.

Dichotomous questions examples:

An example of an excellent dichotomous question would be, ”Did you like the service offered at our outlet?

A wrong dichotomous question would be, “How much did you like the latest album by Drake?”. The respondent will not be able to tell you how much they like something based on a Yes or No question.

Here are a few more examples:

  • Are you employed in a managerial capacity at the organization? Yes/No
  • Would you recommend the company to others? Yes/No
  • Would you consider continuing with us if we make the changes you suggested? Yes/No
  • Have you visited this hospital earlier? Yes/No

Here’s a dichotomous question survey example created just for you…

For someone who answered Yes to the previous question, you could follow up with the following question: What prompted you to return to our hospital? This question could be an open-ended one.

How should you design a Yes/No survey?

A Yes/No question is easy for the researcher to administer and score. It is also easy for the participant to complete. Here are a few things to keep in mind while designing a dichotomous question survey.

Use it as an entry point:

Since dichotomous questions are easy to answer, the respondents are also more likely to participate in the survey. You can easily find participants for such surveys. A Yes/No survey is intended to be a starting point to explore the problem that is being discussed. As the survey progresses, the researcher can add a detailed questionnaire to get more insightful responses.

Helps assess consistency:

With the help of Yes/No questions, you can determine the consistency of the respondents’ replies. How? By asking the same question multiple ways. All the questions cannot follow this format, you need to mix the questions.

Should be carefully devised:

The researcher should keep the objective of the survey in mind and the nature of the information that you seek from the participants. You could use mixed methods of study. Initially, it could be a quantitative component, and once the discussion becomes dense, there could be a qualitative component to it.

Meaning of the questions should be clear:

Since the survey asks a simple question in the form of a dichotomous question, it should be framed with clarity.

Segregates participants:

You can narrow down your target audience from the pool of respondents. For example, if you are studying a link between rote learning and grades. Some of the questions could be “Do you rote learn?” Based on the response, you can divide the participants into those who rote learn and those who don’t.

How to score a Yes/No survey?

Scoring a dichotomous question is easy. All you need to do is tally the Yes and No responses for each of the questions and divide it by the total number of participants. You will get the percentages of Yes and No for every question.

Advantages of dichotomous questions

Easy to answer:

Since it helps the respondents select their ideal option without going through a long list, dichotomous questions are easy to answer. It also makes it easy for the respondents to participate in the survey.

Helps identify buyer personas:

Using this question type helps uncover buyer personas. It will assist you in better understanding respondents by dividing their choices and opinions.

Better completion rates:

The respondents of a survey that is replete with dichotomous questions will find it easy to complete the survey. Therefore, the surveys will be short, and it will increase the survey completion rate by a considerable margin.

Great for factual reporting:

Since there are only two possible answers to dichotomous questions, they are easy to analyze and report on. It is of great use for factual reporting.

Simplifies the survey experience:

It eliminates complexity in surveys by asking a simple questions. It does not take up a lot of time for the respondent either. They don’t have to think a lot either.

Great for screening respondents:

The dichotomous questions can be asked as screening questions for the respondents. Irrelevant people can opt out of the survey process.

Disadvantages of dichotomous questions

The simplicity of dichotomous questions places limitations on the kind of analysis done with them. When asked, “Have you contacted our support team in the last six months?”. The answer to this is Yes or No. There are only two groups for the researcher to analyze.

Let’s reframe the question and see.

“How many times did you contact our support team in the last six months? Please write your response here. [numerical response]

The responses to the above question can be multiple. If there are customers who have contacted more than five customers, you can reach out to them. You can ask them if they still have any issues.

For customers who have not contacted even once, you can find out the following:

  1. Are they using your product?
  2. Did they find it difficult to get in touch with the support team?

The answers to the above questions can be revealing. It can lead to major changes in business processes.

Let us look at some of the other potential limitations of dichotomous questions:

It doesn’t help capture true feelings

Dichotomous questions are simple by nature, and it allows only two choices for the respondents. It limits what they want to say and results in survey bias. Dichotomous questions don’t allow space for people who wish to answer ‘maybe’ or ‘occasionally.’ Businesses cannot use them to ask about neutral experiences.

Can reduce the reliability

Since dichotomous questions don’t ask for a lot from the respondents, the survey process can get abused. Some respondents will think of rushing through the survey without giving much thought to the questions asked. They might not even have a lot of knowledge about the questions. Therefore, it reduces the reliability of the survey results.

Places limitations on the analysis

Even though it is quick and straightforward to create and respond to, it only gives two outcomes. In contrast, an open-ended question gives the respondents the freedom to express what is in their minds. When they write detailed answers, you will get much more accurate data.

Forces the consumer to make a choice

Regardless of whether the customer agrees with the choices present or not, they have no other option but to make any of the two choices. They might choose an option that will not even describe their actual feelings about the product or service. You will end up with survey results that are not accurate.

It is best to use dichotomous questions only when their value is more than their downsides.

How to use dichotomous questions?

Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of using dichotomous questions let’s see how you can best use them.

To provide greater clarity

Dichotomous questions are a great way to gain clarity as respondents pass through the survey. For example, if you are running a survey about your product, you can get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from them whether they have bought your competitor’s product.

To screen respondents

At the beginning of the survey, you can use them as a screening question. The ones who are not relevant to be part of your survey can be identified. Businesses could also use it to divide respondents based on different outcomes. It will help boost the overall quality of the data.

Alternatives to dichotomous questions

Dichotomous questions do not allow the respondents to share their opinions freely. It restricts them to two answers. When asked about customers’ experience with your product, dichotomous questions will limit the answers to good or bad. They will not be able to provide their opinions, nor would they have any other detail.

If the survey results do not help you find the genuine emotions of your customers, then you aren’t collecting the correct feedback.

Let us look at some alternatives to dichotomous questions.

Likert scale

A popular rating scale, you can use the Likert scale as a matrix rating scale instead of dichotomous questions. The respondents can rate different parameters of their experience by giving them questions. In the Likert scale, you can provide the following options: Strongly like, Like, Neither Like nor Dislike, Dislike, Strongly Dislike.

Dropdown

It has a set of pre-populated drop-down lists from which the respondents can choose one answer.

Radio buttons

Instead of dichotomous questions, you can also ask questions in the form of radio buttons. Here, the respondent has to choose the answers they identify with the most. They can be a single choice radio button, or you can give them the option to select multiple answers.

Picture choices

Another great way to gather customer feedback is to collect feedback from customers. In this type, you will offer the respondents a set of pictures from which they will select their answers.

If you are looking to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty, then the alternatives to dichotomous questions in this scenario are:

CSAT:

It is one of the most popular customer satisfaction metrics. CSAT’s full form is Customer Satisfaction and it is a measurement of customer satisfaction. It measures the degree to which a product or service meets the customers’ expectations.

NPS:

Net Promoter Score measures the customers’ experience and predicts the growth of a business by asking a simple question.

This is the NPS question ”How likely are you to recommend our business or product to a friend or family?”

The respondents can respond on a scale of 0 to 10. The higher the score, the more likely they will stay as customers.

CES:

Customer Effort Score measures how easy it is for customers to do business with you. A high CES score means you provide your customers with an effortless experience. If it is low, it means that people find it challenging to deal with your business. The low score will be due to poor customer service, inefficient processes, or other reasons.

Wrapping up

It is safe to say that dichotomous questions add great structure and provide clarity to your surveys. But there are several factors that you need to consider when developing survey questions. Just because radio buttons offer great flexibility, you cannot use them everywhere in the survey. Nor would it be wise to use only open-ended questions in your survey. The respondents will get frustrated and might even drop off the survey.

You need to provide a balance in terms of the question types that you include in your surveys. It will ensure that you get the most relevant responses that will add value to the survey.

If you are looking for an online survey to gather feedback from your customers, SurveySparrow is an effective tool. It has many features and functionalities that address all of your survey needs, no matter whether you are a Fortune 500 enterprise or an SMB looking to scale. It is perfect for startups as well.

FAQs:

What is a dichotomous response?

A closed question where the respondent can only provide two answers, usually a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ is a dichotomous question. It offers quick responses and provides straightforward responses.

What are the types of questions in a questionnaire?

There are several question types in a survey.

  • Multiple-choice questions
  • Rating scale questions
  • Likert scale questions
  • Matrix questions
  • Open-ended questions
  • Demographic questions
  • Ranking questions

What is the meaning of dichotomous research?

Dichotomous means having only two possible values for it.

Example: Yes/No, True/False, Age>25/Age<=25

How can dichotomous questions be avoided?

You can use alternative question types such as the Likert scale, Radio buttons, Dropdown questions, Picture-choice questions, etc.

Why does using dichotomous questions make it easier for the respondents to respond?

The benefits of using dichotomous questions is that they are easy to understand and are short. It is of great use if you want to simplify the survey experience. It will lead to better survey completion rates.

What is a dichotomous question? Give examples?

A perfect example of a dichotomous question is asking for the biological sex, where two options are usually given.

Kate William

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow

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