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Comparing Navigation in Two Formats for Demographic Items in the American Community Survey

Eleanor Gerber, Gianna Dusch

KEY WORDS: forms navigation, matrix designs, cognitive interviewing


Cognitive research was undertaken to compare navigation in two layouts of the demographic items in the American Community Survey (ACS.) One format was called the Matrix format because it presented the items in a grid. Names occurred down the left hand side, and questions occurred at the top of each column. The second format was called the Sequential format, which created a vertical person column, repeating all the stem questions and answer categories for each person. In addition, the research examined some of the instructions to respondents which occur on the first page of the questionnaire. The first page, containing these instructions, is identical in both formats.

Findings include:

  • Some navigation problems occur for respondents in the Matrix format, resulting in missing data or data reported in the wrong space. However, there were no navigation difficulties at all for the Sequential format.
  • Respondents frequently did not read the full set of instructions (on the first page) for listing people in their households. As a result, they sometimes did not fully understand or over-generalized some of the instructions.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Research Division

Created: September 24, 2007
Last revised: September 24, 2007

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Statistical Research Division | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: October 08, 2010