22 January 2019 | by Oliver Harrison

How to Code an Open-Ended Question into a Single Response Question in Q

Coding open-ended responses can often be a tedious task for market researchers. In this post, I will show you how to easily code a single open-ended text variable into a single response question.

In quantitative surveys, there is often a need to ask open-ended questions to garner further insights into a subject beyond a predetermined list of options. An open-ended question is one where you provide the respondent with a text field to enter their response without forcing them to choose from a specified list of alternatives. However, the volume and nature of these responses can pose problems when it comes time to analyze them.

One method is to code these responses into a more manageable list of items based on common themes. There are many different scenarios in which you can capture open-ended responses. In the following example, I refer to brand mentions. In my particular survey, I asked the open-ended question ‘What is your preferred cola?’ This has been collected as a single text variable which I wish to code as a single response or Pick One question in Q. I will now outline the process below.

Setting up your coding

To set up coding as a single response question, simply highlight the text variable you wish to code in the Variables and Questions tab, right-click and select Insert Variable(s) > Code Text > New Code Frame > Manual Categorization > Mutually Exclusive Categories.

Coding your open-ended question

Q will present you with a screen with the uncoded responses on the bottom left and a box on the right for you to add the code frame. In our example, the coding screen looks like this:


  1. Over on the right, you first need to build your code frame. Right-click and it will bring up a context menu that allows you to add codes. There are other features too for renaming and deleting codes. You use Add Category when you want to individually add codes one by one or Import/Export Category Names to paste or type in multiple codes at a time.
  2. Once you’re ready to start allocating uncoded responses to the code frame, simply highlight the responses on the left. The grey numbers in brackets represent the number of responses which fit this exact wording, regardless of case and leading or trailing spaces.
  3. Now select the code you wish to allocate these responses to on the right and your coding selection will be applied.

When you click Save Categories, Q will save your coding as a new variable in your Q project. If you ever need to return to your coding, you can right-click on this variable and select Edit Code Frame. This allows you to continue your coding (if unfinished) or perhaps allocate new uncoded responses that may arise when your data file is refreshed.

Displaying your coding as a table

Once you have finished coding, you can then bring up the question as a table and use it in your analysis.

If you want to find out how to code your open-ended questions into multiple responses or how to reuse code frames and so much more, check out “Using Q“.

Author: Oliver Harrison

After completing a PhD in German history and literature, Oliver swapped old dusty books for computer screens and logic. He then enjoyed the next 10 years as a survey programmer and data analyst in the Australasian market research industry. Today Oliver is passionate about problem-solving and helping customers achieve their goals as a member of the Customer Success team at Displayr.

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