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Online surveys  (formerly BOS)

Powerful, flexible online surveys


This FAQ provides general information about piping in online surveys. We recommend you read this page in its entirety before using piping in online surveys for the first time. For step-by-step instructions for incorporating piping into your survey, please see our Help page on Using piping in your survey.

What is piping?

Piping inserts answers from previous questions into upcoming questions, notes, page titles and section headings. It can also be used to display the current date and time in your survey and to include a completion receipt number on the final page of a survey.

What is piping used for?

Some examples of the potential uses for piping in a survey are:

  1. Personalising the survey experience for your respondents. For example, you could ask your respondents to provide their first name and then use this to address them throughout the survey and thank them at the end.
  2. Focusing follow up questions based on previous responses. You can insert a respondent’s answer to a previous question into the question text of a follow-up question to ask the respondent to expand on their answer.
  3. Creating customised URLs. Piping can be incorporated into URLs to allow your participants to carry information from the survey with them to other websites. This can be used to direct your participants to other surveys based on their answers to an initial screening survey or to track a single participant through a series of surveys.
  4. Creating personalised certificates of completion at the end of a survey.

How does piping work?

To insert answers from previous questions into upcoming items, piping requires:

  1. A source label. A source label is applied to a question. This tells online surveys that the answer to this question will be used later in the survey.
  2. An anchor. The anchor identifies the place where online surveys should insert the answer from the question that has the source label applied to it.

A source label is applied to a question by entering a short string of text into the “Alternative question text” field in the question’s Advanced options (e.g you could apply the source label “name” to a question that asks a respondent for their name).

An anchor uses the source label text at a later point in the survey, but to identify it as an anchor the source label text must be surrounded by square brackets and typed in all capitals, e g “Thank you, [NAME], for participating in this survey.”

To display the current date, date and time and/or a completion receipt number in your survey, a source label is not required.  You can simply insert the relevant token:

  • [BOS_CORE_DATE] for the current date.
  • [BOS_CORE_DATETIME] for the current date and time.
  • [BOS_CORE_RECEIPT] for the unique response number (final page only).

How many times can I use piping in a survey?

Piping source labels can be applied to every question in your survey if you wish. You can only apply one source label to each question, but you can provide multiple anchor points for a single source label.  You can therefore use the same piped answer more than once in your survey if you wish.

Which question types can be used for piping?

Answers can be piped from the following question types:

  • Multiple choice (single answer) questions.
  • Multiple choice (multiple answer) questions but only if the question has been set up so that only one answer option can be selected.
  • Selection list questions.
  • Single-line free text questions.
  • Scale/rank questions, but only if the question has been set up so that only one answer can be selected per row.

Answers can also be piped from grids where the relevant question column contains one of the above question types.

Where can piping anchors be inserted?

Piping anchors can be inserted into the following items:

  • Page titles.
  • Section titles.
  • Notes.
  • Question text (unless the question is in a grid column).
  • The ‘More info’ field.

Piping anchors will not work if they are on the same page as or on a prior page to the question that contains the source label.

The exception to this is if the question that contains the source label is being answered through the use of pre-population parameters. In this instance, an anchor placed on the same page as the question that contains the source label will work correctly.

The date/time and completion receipt number tokens can also only be inserted into the items listed above.  The date/time tokens can be inserted on any page but the completion receipt token can only be used on the final page of the survey.

How can I test the piping in my survey?

Piping will work in the survey preview in exactly the same way as it will work for your respondents when the survey is live. You can therefore thoroughly test your piping in the survey preview.

Although piping can be tested in the survey preview, we always recommend that you pilot your survey before releasing it to your target audience.