When to randomise an answer list?

One of the questions I get asked fairly often is when should an answer list, in a survey, be randomised and when should it be presented in the same order to everybody. In my opinion, the key issue is to think about how the respondent is answering the question in terms of: Does the respondent ‘know’ the answer? In which case the questionnaire needs to help them find their answer. Is the respondent looking at the answer list and picking the most applicable option or options? In which case randomising the list is highly desirable. Examples of the first category, where people already know the answer are: How old are you (show the answers in ascending age), gender (nobody randomises male/female do they?), and where do you live (organise list alphabetically or regionally). I would also include, in this category, questions like what make of car do you own, what type of phone do you have, and I might include which of these supermarkets is your main one – if the list is short. Examples of the second category, where the list guides the selection, include, which of these statements best describes your attitude to …., which of the following […]