Quantitative codes

Quantitative codes are used with questions that request replies in terms of numbers. Categories should be mutually exclusive. For example, too often the question about household income shows categories such as:

There is no single place to list a £25,000 income.

Both precoding and postcoding can be applied to quantitative questions. Precoding involves a closed-ended list and postcoding has categories that can be set up only after the answers are in hand. Here are examples of the closed-ended type of quantitative question:

• How many times have you driven your car in the past seven days, not including today?

• Do you own your own house? How long have you owned it?

In each case, answer categories can be set up in advance and the range of answers is known in advance.

In the case of open-ended quantitative questions, even though there may be a rough idea of the range of answers, the likely distribution of answers cannot be known in advance. Setting up categories in advance may produce data that destroy the chances to analyse it or, even worse, that actually distort results. Consider the following:

• Where are you intending to go for your holidays?

• Where were you educated?

• What is your favourite TV programme?

Computers take over much of the work in establishing quantitative categories. Each specific response can be entered into the system and totalled for each specific category. These preliminary runs give the researcher or marketer the information needed to set up the quantitative categories that meet all requirements. Appropriate class intervals can be set up and the computer instructed to enter this information for each questionnaire.

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