Misreporting to Looping Questions in Surveys: Recall, Motivation and Burden


  • Stephanie Eckman RTI International
  • Frauke Kreuter JPSM




survey methodology, burden, measurement error, incentives


Looping questions are used to collect data about several similar events, such as employment spells, retirement accounts, or marriages. The loops gather information about the number of events experienced as well as details about each one. The questions require respondents to think hard to recall each event and are often lengthy and repetitive. Looping questions can be asked in two formats, and which format a survey uses may affect the quality of the data collected. We develop hypotheses about the effects of format on measurement error in looping questions and test the hypotheses using experimental data from a web survey with a link to administrative records. Results show that one format collects more accurate event reports, but the other format provides higher quality data to the follow up questions. We conclude with guidance for those who write survey  questions as well as those who rely on survey data for substantive analyses.

Author Biography

Stephanie Eckman, RTI International

Fellow RTI International


Additional Files



How to Cite

Eckman, S., & Kreuter, F. (2018). Misreporting to Looping Questions in Surveys: Recall, Motivation and Burden. Survey Research Methods, 12(1), 59–74. https://doi.org/10.18148/srm/2018.v12i1.7168




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