Multiplechoice items

Language researchers will be very familiar with the multiple-choice item format because of its popularity in standardized L2 proficiency testing. The item type is also frequently used in questionnaires with respondents being asked to mark - depending on the question - one or more options. If none of the items apply, the respondent may have the option to leave the question unanswered, but because this makes it difficult to decide later whether the omission of a mark was a conscious decision or just an accident, it is better to include a "Don't know " and a "Not applicable " category (and sometimes even a "No response" option). Also, it is often desirable to ensure that an exhaustive list of categories is provided, and for this purpose it may be necessary to include an "Other" category, typically followed by an open-ended question of the "Please specify" sort (cf. Section 2.5.2).

Multiple choice items are relatively straightforward. It makes them more reader-friendly if we can make the response options shorter by including as much information in the stem as we can without repeating this every time. It also makes it easier to answer them if the response options have a natural order; otherwise they should be arranged in a random or alphabetical order. It is an obvious yet often violated rule that all options should be grammatically correct with respect to the stem. Finally, the use of negative expressions, such as "not," should be avoided in both the stem and the response options - a rule that generally applies to all question types (cf. Section 2.6.2).

Interestingly, multiple-choice items can also produce ordinal rather than nominal (categorical) data (cf. Section 4.3.4), that is, the various alternatives can represent degrees of an attitude, interest, and belief. Respondents are, then, instructed to choose only one of these options and their answers will be coded according to the value of the particular option they chose: e.g., Option A may be assigned '2' and Option D '3'. Obviously the value of each option cannot be set in ad vance on a purely theoretical basis but can only be deduced from extensive pilot testing (cf. Section 2.9) whereby the items are administered to a group of respondents and the value of each response option is calculated on the basis of their answers (for examples of such 'graded' multiple choice items, see Sample 2.5 below).

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