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Recode Values

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About Recode Values

When you create a question, a Recode Value and a Variable Name are automatically assigned to each answer choice. The recode value is the numeric value of a choice, whereas the variable name is the label of the choice when you export in choice text format. By default, the first answer choice will have a recode value of 1, the second choice 2, and so forth, even if you remove answer choices or change the answer choice order. Variable names are the exact text of the choice by default.

Warning: Recode values stop updating to reflect the new answer choice order once you start collecting responses (or if you copy a survey that has collected responses). Please note that these answer values may need to be changed manually.

These recode values and variable names are recorded in the collected dataset and you can modify them to align with your desired statistical analysis.

Example: You may want to recode the values of a “yes” or “no” question to be 0 and 1, respectively, instead of the default 1 and 2. For a question with long answer choices, you may want to give shortened variable names so the data shows up cleaner in reports and data exports.

For more information on exporting your dataset as values or as choice text, see our Export Data page.

Qtip: If you’d like to assign values to answers in order to create a quiz or a test, see our page on Scoring.

Recode Value Order

Recode values are assigned in the order the answer choices are created. Before you collect responses, these values will reset to always be in sequential order as long as you don’t lock the values by selecting the Recode Values checkbox in the Recode Values menu.

After you collect your first response, the recode values won’t automatically update to be in a sequential order so as to protect your collected data.

Example: If you make three options (we’ll say Red, Yellow, and Blue), your recode values initially are 1, 2, and 3. If you delete Yellow and add Orange, Orange is the fourth option and has a recode value of 4. Your recode values are now 1, 3, and 4. If you move Red so that it’s the last listed option, your recode values are now 3, 4, and 1.
Qtip: Have a question where the answer choices are out of order or higher than expected? Chances are you activated and/or published your survey before you were done making edits, or copied an older survey and edited it. Since recode values are assigned in order of the answer choice’s creation, this caused the recode values of your answer choices to be out of order, or higher than expected. Don’t worry – you can edit your recode values at any time, without hurting your data!

Possible Recode Values

You can use any positive integer as a recode value (2, 18, 7, etc.). You are also allowed to give different choices the same recode value.

Example: You ask respondents to rate your product on a scale of 1-7. You want to calculate an average rating, but think that a 5 point scale would be better because several of your options are essentially the same. You can recode it like so:

Recoded values in the recode values window

In this case, Very well, Moderately well, and Slightly well would all be 2, and would contribute the same amount to the calculation of an average.

Note that if you recode different answers with the same value, they will be indistinguishable from each other in the Data & Analysis tab and when you export data.

Variable names can contain any characters, including numbers and symbols.

Recoding Values and Changing Variable Names

  1. Navigate to the Survey tab and select the question you want to change.
    Selected question in the survey editor
  2. Choose Recode Values from the Question behavior menu or from the drop down that appears when you right-click on the question.
    Choosing recode values either from the question behavior menu or by right-clicking on a question
  3. Click the checkboxes for Recode Values and/or Variable Naming (the values and names will appear next to the answer choices).
    Recode Values and Variable Naming in the recode values window
  4. Edit the coded values and names as desired.
  5. Click Close when finished.
    Qtip: Do not deselect the checkboxes! Deselecting the checkboxes will reset the Recode Values and/or Variable Naming to their original default values or names (in case you need to restore their original values later on).

You can change these coded values and names during survey building or after you have collected your data without invalidating your results. The change will be immediately reflected in your raw data set and any statistics in your Data & Analysis tab.

Reset Recode Values

Sometimes you’ll want to reset all of your recode values. Maybe you copied your survey from an old one and don’t want the same recodes, or maybe you made many edits you don’t like and want to start over.

If you go to Tools and select Reset Recode Values, your recode values will be removed, and your data will calculate based on default choice IDs. For example, your first choice in a question will usually value 1.

Reset recode values option in the Tools menu

Attention: This option resets recode values. It will not reset variable names!

Question Export Tags

The matrix and side by side question types will show an additional blue field for question export tags. This option allows you to apply a custom export tag to each row / statement of the question. These tags will help you distinguish the column titles for each statement in the exported data.

Export Tags can contain any characters, including numbers and symbols.

Question Export Tags in the recode values window

The header row is highlighted to show that the columns are now named for the export tags in the previous picture, just with an underscore and a number afterwards

The numbers in the headers refer to the scale points. Although these cannot be changed to text labels, editing the recode values for these scale points will change the number in the header.

Recoding the values in a matrix table with the modified question export tags show

In an example export, the headers is highlighted to show how the export tag, underscore, 3 has now turned to a 6

Qtip: When you change the Export Tags in a Matrix Table or Side by Side, the Data Table (default) export columns will not include the question number unless it is part of your Export Tag. E.g., you will have to type the Export Tag as Q5_Snowboot instead of just Snowboot.

Questions That Can Be Recoded

Not every question type has the option to recode values. Text Entry questions, for example, are infinitely variable and so cannot have a numeric value assigned to each possibility. To have the recode option, a question must have a discrete number of answer choices.

Many question types meet this requirement. You can recode the values for the following types:

  • Multiple choice
  • Matrix table
  • Rank order
  • Side by side
  • Constant sum (Type – Choices)
  • Graphic slider

Exporting a Data Dictionary

For purposes of your research, you may want to have a central data repository to reference so that you know what each recode value represents in your dataset. You can export a data dictionary Word document that will list each question with the recoded value in parenthesis next to each answer choice.

To export a data dictionary

  1. Click Tools in the Survey tab.
    Exporting a survey to Word
  2. Select Import/Export and then Export survey to Word.
  3. Check to make sure Show Coded Values is enabled.
    Exporting coded values to Word
  4. Click Export.