BOS - Online Surveys

powerful, flexible online surveys

Using piping in your survey ADVANCED

If you have not used piping in your survey before, please read our FAQ on piping first.

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

This page explains how to:

  1. Insert answers from previous questions into upcoming items in your survey.
  2. Insert the current date and time and include a completion receipt number in your survey.
  3. Check and test your piping.
  4. Troubleshoot your piping.

Terminology

Throughout this page, the terms ‘source question’, ‘anchor’ and ‘core variable’ will be used.  These words have the following meanings:

The source question is the question that will have its answer used later on in the survey

The anchor is the token which tells BOS where to insert the answer from the source question.

A core variable is a piece of data about the participant’s response that has not been entered by the participant.  Three core variables can be piped into a survey: the current date, the current date and time and a unique response number.

Inserting answers from previous questions into upcoming items in your survey

To insert answers from previous questions into upcoming items in your survey, you must:

  1. Set up a source question to capture the answer that will be used later in the survey; then
  2. Place an anchor to tell BOS where to insert the answer from the source question.

Step 1: Setting up the source question

In the survey builder icon Survey builder:

  1. edit icon Edit the question that you want to use as a source question (i.e. a question that will have its answer used later on in your survey).  A source question must be one of the following question types:
    • Multiple choice (single answer) question.
    • Multiple choice (multiple answer) question but only if the question has been restricted so that only one answer option can be selected.
    • Selection list question.
    • Singe-line free text question.
    • Scale/rank question, but only if the question has been restricted so that only one answer can be selected per row.
    • Grid question, where the question column you want to use for piping contains one of the above question types.
  2. Click on Advanced options.
  3. Scroll down to Alternative question text and enter a label for your question.  Piping source labels have the following restrictions:
    • They can only use the letters A-Z (upper or lower case), the numbers 0-9 and the underscore character: _.  Spaces and other special characters cannot be used in piping source labels.
    • There is a limit of 100 characters.  We recommend that you keep piping source labels as short as possible.
    • Each source label must be unique – you cannot use the same label on more than one question.
    • You can only use one source label per question.
  4. Click Save.

Repeat for all the questions you want to use for piping.

Note: If you wish to use a grid question for piping, you must create a source label for the grid question and a source label for each relevant question column.

Step 2: Placing the anchor

Note: Piping takes effect when the respondent answers the source question and then clicks on “Next” or “Submit” to move to the next page of the survey.  Anchors must be placed on a separate, subsequent page to the source question. The one exception to this is if the source question is being answered through the use of pre-population parameters. In this instance, an anchor can be placed on the same page as the source question.

In the survey builder icon Survey builder:

  1. edit icon Edit the item that will contain the anchor (i.e. the item that will use the answer from the source question).  An anchor can be placed in the following items:
    • Page title.
    • Section title.
    • Note.
    • Question text (unless the question is in a grid column).
    • The ‘More info’ field.
  2. Place the anchor in the appropriate location.  A piping anchor uses the source question label typed in all caps and surrounded by square brackets.  E.g. source label = name; anchor = [NAME].  Please note the following extra requirements where the source question is a scale/rank question or a grid question:
    • For a scale/rank source question, the anchor is comprised of the source label, an underscore, then the row number for the answer that you want to use.  For example:
      • Source question label = scale; Row number = 2;
      • Anchor = [SCALE_2]
    • For a grid source question, the anchor is comprised of the grid question label, the row number for the answer that you want to use, and the question column label for the answer you want to use, separated by underscores.  For example:
      • Grid question label = grid; Row number = 3; Question column label = col1;
      • Anchor = [GRID_3_COL1]
  3. Click Save.

Repeat until you have placed all the anchors you wish to use in your survey. You can use the same anchor as many times in your survey as you like, as long as the anchor is located on a page after the source question (or on the same page if the source question is being answered through the use of pre-population parameters).

Instructions for placing an anchor in a URL can be found in our FAQ on Creating a customised URL using piping.

Inserting the current date and time and a receipt number

There are three core variables which can be inserted into a survey: the current date, the current date and time and a unique response number.  These core variables do not need you to set up a source question first.

The date and date and time variables can be inserted on any survey page.  The unique response number can only be inserted on the final page of your survey (i.e. the ‘thank you’ page that your respondents land on after they click on Finish to submit their answers).

The unique response number matches the response ID that appears in the results analysis.

In the survey builder icon Survey builder:

  1. edit icon Edit the item that will contain the core variable.  A core variable can be inserted into the following items:
    • Page title.
    • Section title.
    • Note.
    • Question text (unless the question is in a grid column).
    • The ‘More info’ field.
  2. Insert the variable token in the appropriate location.  As with piping anchors, the variable token must be in all caps and surrounded by square brackets, as follows:
    • To insert the current date, insert [BOS_CORE_DATE]
    • To insert the current date and time, insert [BOS_CORE_DATETIME]
    • To insert the unique response number (on the final page of the survey only), insert [BOS_CORE_RECEIPT]
  3. Click Save.

Instructions for placing a core variable token in a URL can be found in our FAQ on Creating a customised URL using piping.

Checking and testing your piping

Checking your piping

The Piping overview page (in the Distribute section of your survey) provides a breakdown of the piping used in your survey.  You can review this to check which questions are being used for piping in your survey and where the answers are being piped to.

Testing your piping

The survey preview allows you to test your piping.  The piping will work in the preview in exactly the same way as it will work in the live survey.  Complete the survey in preview mode as if you were a real respondent (including clicking the Next/Continue button at the bottom of each survey page) to see how the piping works in your survey.

While it is possible to test piping in the survey preview, we strongly recommend that you always pilot your survey before releasing it to your target audience.  A survey pilot is a much more robust test of your survey than the preview, and allows you to check other aspects of your survey, including how your responses display in the analysis.

Troubleshooting your piping

If the piping anchor or core variable token displays in your survey preview or live survey instead of the answer text, this may be for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. The anchor does not match the source label.
    • Check that the anchor matches the text in the source label exactly (other than being in all caps).  If you are using a scale/rank question or grid question as your source question, ensure that the anchor has been formatted correctly and includes the row number and column label (as applicable).
  2. The anchor has been placed before, or on the same page as, the source question.
    • An anchor placed before the source question will not work.
    • An anchor placed on the same page as the source question will only work if the question is being answered through the use of pre-population parameters.
  3. The source question is not a valid question type for piping.
    • Multi-line free text questions and any of the date/time question types cannot be used for piping.
    • Scale/rank questions and multiple choice (multiple answer) questions must be restricted so that they only permit a single answer (or single answer per row).
  4. The anchor or core variable token has been placed in a location that cannot be used for piping.
    • Anchors/core variable tokens will not work if they are placed in answer options, scale/rank row items, grid row items, or the question text in a grid question column.
  5. The anchor or core variable token is not within square brackets [ ] and/or is not in ALL CAPS.
    • Ensure you have used square brackets and capital letters for your anchors/core variable tokens.
  6. The [BOS_CORE_RECEIPT] token has been placed on a page other than the final page of the survey.
    • This token can only be used on the final page of the survey, as the response number is not generated until the respondent has submitted their answers.