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Choice Randomization

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About Choice Randomization

Randomization is an important research technique used to help overcome the bias that can result from the order items are presented in. With Qualtrics, you can randomize choices, questions, or entire blocks of questions. This page outlines how to randomize choices.

Setting Up Choice Randomization

There are five types of choice randomization:

  • No Randomization: The default option. Choices are not randomized.
  • Display choices in a random order: Randomizes all choices.
  • Present only __ of total choices: Randomly displays a specified number of choices from the total choices available.
  • Randomly flip the order of choices: Randomly reverses the order of presented choices.
    • Consistently reverse the choice order for all questions with this randomization option selected: This option only appears after enabling “randomly flip the order of choices.” When enabled, this option will consistently randomize answer choice order for your survey.
  • Advanced Randomization: Specify which choices are randomized and which are always displayed in the same location.

To set up choice randomization

  1. In the Survey tab, select the question you want to randomize, then click the gray gear to access the Question Options and choose Randomization.
    Qtip: For Matrix Table questions, there will be two options: Randomization and Answer Randomization. Scale points are randomized with Answer Randomization while statements are randomized with Randomization.

    Question options dropdown

  2. Select a randomization type.
    the options for choice randomization
  3. Click Save when finished.

Once you’ve applied randomization, a randomization icon will appear to the left of the question. Clicking on this icon will open the Choice Randomization window.

Twisted arrows icon on the left of a question indicating it was randomized

Advanced Randomization

Some questions require a more complex setup than simply randomizing all choices or displaying a random subset of choices. For example, all choices in the following question should be randomized, except “Other”, which should remain at the bottom of the list.

Other option on a multiple choice question

Advanced Randomization can help with these types of scenarios by dividing choices into the four categories below.

Fixed Display Order

Choices in this category will always display in the same position in the choice list. The up and down arrows to the left can be used to rearrange the list order.

All choices in the Fixed Display Order box have been moved to the Randomize Choices box on the right except Other and Product Photos, which we want to always be last and first, respectively

For this question, “Product Photos” will always show at the top of the list, “Other” will always show at the bottom, and all other choices will be inserted randomly in the middle.

Randomize Choices

Choices in this category will be inserted randomly into the question in the spots labeled {Randomized}.

Other is last in the list of Fixed Display Order. All moved choices are represented by brackets around the word Randomized

For this question, all choices are randomized, except “Other”, which will always display at the bottom.

Random Subset

Choices in this category will be inserted randomly into the question in the spots labeled {Random Subset}. With this category, you specify the number of choices to be inserted and whether the choices should be evenly presented or completely randomized.

Four choices are in Random Subset to the right. The settings say randomly insert 2 questions from this list, so on the left, it says Random Subset TWICE where the items should be randomized

For this question, one of the three Random Subset options will show first in the list and another will show third. The remaining subset option will not be displayed.

Randomly Reverse Choices

Choices in this category will be randomly displayed in either their original order, or in a reverse order.

the randomly reverse choices option in advanced randomization

You can also choose to have your answer choices consistently reversed across all questions by enabling the Consistently reverse the choice order for all questions with this randomization option selected setting.

Excluded Items

Choices in this category will never be used.

the excluded items section of advanced randomization

For this question, the option “Product Photos” will never be displayed in the question.
Qtip: Why have a choice that will never be displayed? This can happen when using the Carry Forward feature. With Carry Forward, the choices are brought in from a previous question. Though a choice like “None of the above” may make sense in the original question, it may not be needed in the follow up question. Additionally, it is beneficial to hide questions and answer choices instead of deleting them in order to avoid unintentionally removing collected data from your data set.

To set up advanced randomization

  1. In the Survey tab, select the question to be randomized, then click the gray gear to access the Question Options and choose Randomization.
    Question options dropdown
  2. Click Set Up Advanced Randomization.
    Choice Randomization window with Advanced Randomization selected
  3. Select the items to be randomized. Hold down Shift or Ctrl while choosing items to select multiple at a time.
    items in advanced randomization. all items are listed with other appearing last in the fixed display order
  4. Use the arrows to move the choices into one of the three categories (Randomize Choices, Random Subset, or Undisplayed Items) then click Save.
    to move items through the advanced randomization screen, click the arrows

Preserving Randomization Order

In some studies, multiple questions ask about the same set of choices. The random order used to present choices in the first question may need to be preserved so the same order is used in subsequent questions.

Randomization order can be preserved from one question to the next by using the Carry Forward feature.

To preserve randomization order

  1. Set up randomization on the initial question using the steps described above.
    A randomized Q1
  2. Create the follow up question, without any choices.
    New question Q3 asking about Q1 choices
  3. Click the gray gear to access the Question Options and select Carry Forward Choices.
    From the Question Options menu, Carry Forward Items is selected
  4. Select which choices to bring into the follow up question.
    Selected Choices
  5. Click Done.

Randomization Data

You can view the order in which your choices were displayed to respondents by enabling Export Randomized Viewing Order before exporting your data. The display order will appear as a column in your data file with multiple choices separated by a bar “|” if multiple choices were seen.

CSV with randomized data. The column heading has DO-Q-then the question number.

If you export with Split multi-value fields into columns selected, too, this will separate the viewing order into separate columns, instead of listing all displayed choices underneath one column.

To download randomization data

  1. Navigate to the Data & Analysis tab.
    In the Data & Analysis tab, Export & Import is selected, then Export Data is highlighted
  2. Click Export & Import.
  3. Click Export Data.
  4. Choose the file type you would like to download.
    Bar along the top allows file type selection; More Options on bottom-left
  5. Click the blue colored More Options text.
  6. Select the Export viewing order data for randomized surveys checkbox.
    Exporting viewing order data towards the bottom of list of choices; Download button in bottom-right
  7. Click the green Download button.
Qtip: To learn more about exporting data, view our Download Options page.