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Questions & Answers

by Wesley R. Elsberry, 1998/02/18
Questions & Answers is a general utility for entering the results of surveys into a computer.  It uses a text file to represent the questions and possible responses on the survey, allows the user to select  a response on-screen, and saves information to a comma-delimited text file.  Comma-delimited text files can be imported into a great number of analysis programs, including spreadshseets and statistical packages.

Questions & Answers comes with NO WARRANTY.  All risks of use are borne by the user.

The program can be freely downloaded, in either 16-bit for Windows 3.1 or 32-bit for Windows 95/NT formats.  Personal use is free.  Researchers publishing results obtained from data entered via Questions & Answers are required to list use of the program and its authorship in acknowledgement in the publication.  (When I have a publication available, this program will become Citation-Ware.)  Commercial entities are required to arrange licensing with the author.

How to use Questions & Answers

32-bit Questions & Answers is written in Delphi 2.0, and runs under Windows 95 or Windows NT.  It is recommended that it be placed in its own directory, such as "C:\Program Files\Questions and Answers".  It can be launched from the "Run" selection on the Start Menu, or by double-clicking its entry in Windows Explorer.

Making a Questions File

Questions & Answers uses a text file to display questions and answer choices.  Such a text file can be made using NotePad, WordPad, or any word processing package that allows files to be saved as plain ASCII text.  The format of the text file is that each question gets its own line, the colon ( : ) is the separator character, the first text becomes a caption, and the rest of the text items are listed as answer choices.  Questions & Answers automatically adds two answer choices, "Missing" and "Other", to each question.  "Missing" is to indicate that the respondent did not make a selection on that question on the survey, while "Other" allows the entry of a different tag value via a text editing field, labeled as "Other Text".  Let's take an example survey question, and see how it might turn into a line in the Questions file.
  That question can be represented by the following lines:



3.5 Dangerous Situation?:a:b:c:d:e


3.5 Dangerous Situation?:SA:A:U:D:SD


3.5 Dangerous Situation?:Strongly Agree:Agree:Undecided:Disagree:Strongly Disagree

The first two lines will save responses as "a", "b", "c", "d", or "e".  The second two lines establish different tag values for saving responses.  For statistical tests using non-numeric values, the actual tag values make no difference, but using tags that are meaningful may help in user validation of data entry.

One may want to add other lines to the Questions file to prompt for other related information, such as the survey number if all surveys were enumerated either on sending or when received.  It is important, though, that only one Questions file be used without change when entering the data from a survey, so that all entries use the same tags, and the number of questions does not change throughout.

Entering Data

Once the Questions file has been generated, data entry can begin.  From the File menu, select Open Questions.  A dialog box will pop up, allowing browsing to find the Questions file.  Once selected, click "OK".  The top "Questions and Answers" memo box will be loaded with the text of the Questions file that was selected, and the first question will be displayed in the radio button group box on the right.  Clicking on a radio button causes the selected tag value to replace the original question text in the memo.

When the "Next on Click?" check box is checked, the next question will automatically be brought up after an answer is selected, after a brief pause.  Using the "Back", "Next", or spin edit controls will caused the "Next on Click?" check box to be unchecked.

If "Other" is clicked, whatever is in the "Other Text" edit box will be used as the value of the answer put into the memo box.  This means that the "Other Text" edit box should be used to enter a value before clicking the "Other" radio button.

Other information can be entered ad lib into the bottom memo box.  Each line becomes an item which is appended in the record written to the comma-delimited output.

An answer recorded in the top memo box can be edited.  This is useful if certain survey answers are not mutually exclusive, such as a "circle all that apply" type question.  In that case, the first circled answer could be clicked in the radio group, and then the remaining selections entered into the memo box along with that answer.

Saving Data

Once all the answers from one survey have been entered, they can be saved to a file.  Go to the File menu, then select "Save To".  A dialog box appears.  A file can be selected, or a new file name typed in.  The answers are then output as one line of  comma-delimited text to the selected file.  Existing files are appended to.  When the save operation is complete, the memo fields are cleared and the current question file reloaded into the top memo field, ready to begin entry of another set of answers.
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