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Survey tip 7: Use questions with a clear temporal reference!If you want to use questions involving facts or opinions within a certain period of time in the past, present or future you must define the time frame. It is important that the related temporal reference is clear.
Clearly ambiguous formulations such as "... recently...", ".. in the near future..." or "..previously.." and also "... during your childhood...", are completely at the discretion of the respondent and what they understand by them: "recently" can refer to the last three weeks or it can also mean the last three years
The following types of formulation are also ambiguous: "during the last week" (does it refer to the calendar week or the previous seven days before the survey?) or ".. when you were 16 years old" (does this refer to the beginning of the 16th year of your life or the end or something else?).
On the other hand, unambiguous formulations can use specific dates or times as an "anchor", for example: "... since the 1st of April", "..on your 16th birthday", ".. up until the 31st of January." or ".. in the last three working days...". Of course the use of such dates or times does not guarantee that the respondent will actually be able to confine their answers to these periods of time, but they do specify the time in which the answer should be confined.
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Formulation of questions
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Last updated: 20.02.2020