Composing Constant Sum Questions

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Constant sums are used to let the respondent allocate, say, 100 points across multiple items.  Common uses include amount of time spent in various activities, or amount of money spent on various items.  You can also ask respondents to allocate numbers that sum to a particular value that the respondent provided in an earlier question.


Constant sum questions require a data field to be stored for each response option.  Therefore, if respondents are to allocate points across 10 response items, this uses 10 data fields toward your license capacity.


Constant Sum Question Layout


The Constant Sum question has four main sections:


1.  Header 1

2.  Header 2

3.  Question

4.  Footer


The Question text line appears directly above the response options.  The Question text line is indented according to the Question Indent Width you specify in the Survey Settings | Page Format dialog.  The styles you apply (color, bold, size, etc.) in the Question row also apply to the response options.


The Constant Sum Question dialog has five buttons: Rename, Advanced..., Preview, OK and Cancel.


RenameLets you rename the current question.


Advanced...This button accesses advanced settings for this question.


PreviewLets you preview how the Internet browser displays the current question.


OKSaves changes to the current question and returns to the Write Questionnaire dialog.


CancelReturns to the Write Questionnaire dialog without saving changes to the current question.


Format controls (Color, Size, Bold, Italic, Underline, and Justification) are available for formatting text using the paintbrush paintbrush icon.


Specifying Response Options


Specify response options by clicking the Response Options tab.  When you specify response options for a constant sum question, you are creating/using a "predefined" list of response items that can be used in this question and in other questions.  This predefined list has a name (up to 24 characters, starting with a letter).  By default, the list name is QuestionNameList, but you can change this name if you wish.


1.  From the Response Options tab, select an existing list of items, or add a new list of items by clicking the Add... button.  


2.  If adding new items, type the list item in the space provided.  


3.  Click OK when finished and the list item is added.


Tip: If you are adding many response options at the same time, you can save time by pressing ENTER twice after typing each list item.  Pressing ENTER twice is equivalent to clicking OK and then clicking Add....


Time-Saving Hint: You can cut-and-paste lists of response options from Microsoft Word or Excel by highlighting the array of items in Word or Excel, pasting to the clipboard using Ctrl+C or the Copy button in Word or Excel, and then by clicking the Paste list member(s) from the clipboard icon pastequestion.


A numeric index is displayed at the left of your list items for reference, but is not displayed as part of the question.  


Click OK to save your changes and to return to the Constant Sum Question dialog.


Randomizing Response Options


To randomize response items for a question, from the Response Options tab, click Randomize Response Options.  This randomizes all items except for any Other Specify or "None of the Above" options at the bottom of the list.  When using this method to randomize options, information regarding the specific order shown to each respondent is not saved in the data.


If you need additional flexibility for randomizing a subset of the range of items beyond that provided with this simple dialog, you have great power and flexibility when constructing lists and using the Randomize command.  When you randomize list items using constructed lists, information is saved in the database regarding the specific order shown to each respondent.


Re-ordering, Copying and Pasting Response Options


The "up" and "down" arrow icons can be used for moving the selected response option up or down in the list.  


You can also highlight a single or multiple items and cut or copy-and-paste the items to a new position on this list, or to a response list for another select-type, ranking, or constant-sum question.  Highlight the item(s) to be moved or copied, then click the Copy or Cut icons.  Move the cursor to a new place on the list (or to a response list for a different question).  Click the Paste icon.


Constant Sum Settings



Type a value such as "100" into this field.  This is the amount that the numeric entry items should sum to.  (You can provide a permissible range around the total, such as plus or minus 5, by clicking the Advanced... button on this dialog.)  You can also specify [%GetValue(questionname)%], where questionname is a name of a previous numeric question in your survey.  In that case, the value the respondent typed earlier in the questionnaire is used as the required sum.


Allow Decimals

Specify if respondents are allowed to use decimals.


Number of Columns

Lets you arrange the response options across multiple columns.


Require Response to Question

Specifies whether respondents are required to answer the question.


Require Response to each individual input box

Use this field to specify whether respondents must supply a value for every response option of the multi-part constant sum question.


Include a "Total" at the bottom

If you want a running total to be displayed within the question, check this box.  Also specify a label to be placed next to that field.  The totals field appears as a grayed-out text box that updates as respondents enter values in the other fields in the constant-sum question.  The totals value is not stored in the database.


(In the Error Messages tab under Survey Settings..., if respondents do not fill out the question properly, you can display  messages to the user regarding the current sum and the required total. ErrTotal( ) returns the required total, and ErrCurSum( ) returns the current sum.)


Referencing Constant Sum Questions in Sawtooth Script


Constant Sum Questions:







[% Q1_4 %]



For constant-sum questions, each response option can contain a numeric value.  You refer to each response option within a constant-sum question using underscore "_" notation.  For example, [% Q1_4 %] returns the numeric value typed into the fourth response option in Q1.




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