Mandatory (required) questions

June 5, 2024

A respondent may refuse to answer a particular question, may not know the answer, or, perhaps, a family member may be unavailable for answering - these are common situations during the interviewing process.

Every once in a while our support team is receiving questions on how to designate a question “required”, so that the interview may not proceed unless this particular question is answered. The justification could be that the answer is critically important to determine subsequent trajectory through the questionnaire: eligible/non-eligible for interview, treated/controls, etc.


A typical user would attempt to “make” the question mandatory by writing a validation condition, such as IsAnswered(self) and a validation message “Error! Please provide an answer to this question!”.

This doesn’t achieve the objective, because Survey Solutions validates the answers to the questions. Hence, if there is no answer, there is nothing to validate and the expression is not even evaluated. But if there is an answer, then the result of this expression is always true.

The designer of the questionnaire should decide, what should be the consequence for the interviewing process if the question is not answered. In most cases some further information may still be acquired, but occasionally this would mean the end of the interview. In that case the designer should apply the condition IsAnswered(someImportantQuestion) as enabling (not validation) condition for all the subsequent questions. Note that this is much easier if these questions are contained in different sections, in which case one can apply one condition for the whole section.

If, on the other hand, the designer of the questionnaire decides that the interview should not be submitted at all when it has certain critical questions not answered, then the correct way of implementing this is by defining the critical rules and questions.


Note that simply declaring a question as critical, does not prevent the interviewer/respondent from going forward in the interview. It prevents the interview from submission though! So one may need to combine enabling conditions and critical rules to prevent the interviewers from going forward in the interview or submitting an incomplete interview.