I’ve been working as a researcher and higher-ed teacher for more than a decade now. And in this timeframe, I’ve sent out survey requests to tens of thousands of potential research respondents and students to share their insights about a variety of topics (sorry for the spam). This usually went fine – as long as I kept the questions short and closed. But don’t you dare and add open-ended survey questions

How open-ended survey questions usually do not work

In all likelihood, adding open-ended questions to your survey will lead to one of two things. First, people skip the question or just enter a short note that evades in-depth, qualitative study (Just like asking my kids: “How was school today?”). Second, and far worse, people might feel insulted by the prospect of having to type actual words and they drop out of the survey altogether. Hello, missing data.

Voiceform as a solution to open-ended survey questions

Enter voiceform. Voiceform is a tool that implements what I call a voice survey; a survey made up of mostly open-ended questions that do not require the respondents to type but that accepts speech as an answer directly. Put differently, this is like sending voice messages on Signal or Whatsapp instead of writing a chat message. And this might sound like a subtle difference at first, but for qualitatively-oriented survey research (or qualitative course evaluations) it can make all the difference.

Answering via voiceform removes a lot of frictions for respondents. Yes, typing answers on small mobile phone screens, which are the dominant device from which surveys are being answered on, is a nerve-wracking job. Instead, just talking about the question to your mobile phone feels… engaging. And by recording your questions, too, instead of just printing them on the screen, you can even increase the conversational tone of the voice survey.

In the end, what you will get with voiceform compared to a qualitative survey that needs to be filled in by writing or by typing is not only an increased response rate, but also much more detailed and conversational, informal answers. The mental filter that exists between a thought and the thought being written down is circumvented. And this clearly is what researchers want and need.

voiceform: A tool to implement voice surveys for your research

What I have written above describes the core functionality, the point being that voiceform really excels. What about the rest? The rest is useful – it’s a full-fledged survey platform with a nice, clean user interface. Do not expect the ability to administrate panels in the most professional ways and do not expect too complex survey logics. But that, in my experience, is something that is not needed for >90% of surveys, anyway. The design from the respondent’s point of view is nice and clean. The options of sharing the survey and exporting the data (both the automatically transcribed audio files and the audio files themselves) offer everything you need.

Click here to ask me any question about voiceform as a research tool (or get your account set up here and try for yourself).

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Contact: Dominik E. Froehlich
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