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The Response Process, part 1: Encoding (or If I Don’t Know, I Can’t Answer)

I’m trying to keep this blog as practical and non-academic as possible, but one thing I learned at school that I still apply in every questionnaire I write was the Response Process Model, developed by Tourangeau, Rips, and Rasinski:

Encode –> Comprehend –> Retrieve –> Map –> Report

Each of these phases is critical to getting quality data, so today I’m kicking off a 5-part series where I’ll discuss each step of the process—and give examples of where I’ve seen it break down.

The first phase of response is almost a “pre-phase,” in that it happens before the respondent even sees a questionnaire.  Encoding is the process of being aware of what has happened.  Before I can answer a question about something, I need to know that I’ve done it.

For example, I had a food client who wanted to know how often people consumed different nutrients. They suggested the following question:

Please indicate how much of each of the following nutrients you consume in a typical day.

Vitamin C
Less than the recommended amount, About the recommended amount, More than the recommend amount

Vitamin A
Less than the recommended amount, About the recommended amount, More than the recommend amount

Iron
Less than the recommended amount, About the recommended amount, More than the recommend amount

Vitamin D
Less than the recommended amount, About the recommended amount, More than the recommend amount

Niacin
Less than the recommended amount, About the recommended amount, More than the recommend amount

Jessica

Founder of Southpaw Insights