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Constant Sum Question

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About Constant Sum Questions

Constant sum questions provide respondents a way to enter numeric data. Each numeric entry is summed and can be displayed to the respondent.

Question, How many hours of your day do you devote to these activities? Each choice has a text box where you enter a number. There is a Total row where the answers add up to 24.

Example: You can ask respondents how many of hours they dedicate to certain activities in a given day and require that their answers add up to 24.

Answer Types

There are three variations available for the constant sum question: choices, bars, and sliders. You can access these variations under Answer type in the question editing pane.

Choices Constant Sum

With the choices variation, respondents type their answers into text boxes.

The Constant Sum is set to Choices and has text boxes

The choices constant sum has several customizable options, found in the editing pane under Format:

Image of Format expanded in editing pane to left. Alignment is set to vertical and the choices are presented one on top of each other with boxes next to each single choice. Total Box is selected, so an extra row that adds up the total appears. Symbol is set to after and the text is hours, so every box where you answer is followed by the word hours.

  • Alignment: Switch the layout of the text boxes from a vertical format to a horizontal format.
    Qtip: This is what a horizontal version of the same question looks like.
    Alignment is set to horizontal and the choices are presented two at a time with boxes next to each single choice
  • Add total box: Display a total box at the bottom of the question so respondents can keep track of their total as they are entering data (only available when in vertical alignment).
  • Add symbol: Place a symbol before or after each text box (e.g., include “hours” after each text box if an answer is expected in hours).

The choices constant sum also has a custom Response requirement you can add, called Add range requirement. Once enabled, you can set a range of valid numbers for each item (e.g., on our hours in a day question, “0” would be an appropriate minimum and “24” would be an appropriate maximum).

Options for "add range requirement" in the response requirements section of the question editing pane

Bars Constant Sum

With the bars variation, respondents drag a bar for each item to select a number. If a maximum sum is set for the question, bars cannot be dragged above this sum.

Bars is selected, so the constant sum looks like bars you can drag to indicate the numeric answer for each choice

The bars constant sum has several customizable options, found in the editing pane:

  • Custom Start Position: Start respondents on a particular value (by default, sliders and bars will start at 0). To use this feature, check the box, and then drag the bar to the position you would like it to start at. Found under Statements in the editing pane.
    Bars are adjusted in the editor to display a Custom Start Position
  • Scale points settings: Specify the number of grid lines, minimum values, maximum values, and decimals that will be shown.
    In the Grid Lines section, the max, min, and number of grid lines are set
  • Labels: Place additional text along the top of your question. These can be enabled by selecting Add labels under Format.
    Labels is set to 2, so 2 labels appear above the bars

    Qtip: If you’d like to select from pre-written labels, try enabling Use suggested labels. To learn about the options available, see Suggested Choices.
  • Show Value: Opt to show the respondent the exact number the slider is currently on. These can be enabled under Format.
    Show value is selected, so next to each bar, a value is displayed to the right

Slider Constant Sum

The slider variation is similar in function to the bars constant sum. Respondents drag a slider handle for each statement to select a number. If a “must total” validation is set for the question, slider handles cannot be dragged above this sum.

Constant Sum is set to sliders, which is similar to bars, but looks more like the slider question type

The slider constant sum has the same options that the bars constant sum has. See above for more information on these options.

Response Requirements

You can require that the answers entered into a constant sum must total a chosen value. Respondents will not be able to move past the question until the total is matched.

Under validation, must total is set to 24

Data Analysis

Once your responses have been collected, Qualtrics offers various ways you can analyze your response data. From the Reports tab, you can view aggregate data in pre-made reports as well as create your own reports from scratch. From the Data & Analysis tab, you can view and manage individual respondents’ data.

Results Visualizations

In the Results section of the Reports tab, there are several visualizations that can display the data from a constant sum question.

The statistics table is a great visualization for the constant sum question. This visualization includes the minimum, maximum, and mean value entered for each item, as well as other metrics.

A statistics table

Another great option is the gauge chart visualization. The gauge’s length is dictated by a maximum value. Then, each item in the constant sum is its own gauge, with a colored bar representing how close to the maximum the value is.

Example: This gauge chart displays the average hours a day spent on each activity. The metric is mean and the maximum is set to 24, since there are 24 hours in a day.

Gauge charts set to metric mean

Other visualizations that can display constant sum data include bar charts and line charts. These work best when the metric is set to mean.

Reports Visualizations

In the Reports section of the Reports tab, the compatible visualizations are the statistics table, the bar chart, and the line chart.

In this case, the gauge chart will only be compatible if one item if “Use All Choices” is not set as the data source.

Gauge chart

Downloaded Data Format

The downloaded dataset will include a column for each item in the constant sum question, indicating what value each participant entered.

CSV of constant sum data

Each column title contains the entire question, and then ends with the specific item.