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Background and context

This standard addresses the design of flowcharts used to depict the structure, flow and specifications for electronic questionnaires. Flowcharts depict the sequence in which the various functions in the questionnaire are carried out, and the logical relationships between them (Jabine, 1985). At Statistics New Zealand, flowcharts are used to specify, test and build electronic social survey questionnaires.

Flowcharting enables:

  • an understanding of question relationships, and how questions fit together in the context of the questionnaire
  • cognitive testing of the electronic questionnaire
  • programming of electronic questionnaires to exact specifications
  • validation of the programmed electronic questionnaire against the specifications.

At Statistics NZ, flowcharts should be the only documents used to specify question wording and flow of electronic social survey questionnaires.

Rationale for the standard

This standard:

  • assists a novice to draw up flowcharts
  • ensures that survey developers design flowcharts in a consistent and standardised way that adheres to best practice
  • details the purpose of each 'shape' so there is no confusion between survey developers and application developers about what the elements on a flowchart represent
  • provides guidance for those reading flowcharts
  • increases efficiency by reducing duplication of effort, and risk of error from producing multiple documents that repeat information already recorded in the flowchart.

Development of the standard

This standard has been developed through practical application over a number of years, and in consultation with business units across Statistics NZ.

Scope

This standard applies to all specifications for electronic social survey questionnaires produced by Statistics NZ. This includes computer-assisted personal interviews (CAPI), computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI) and, if necessary, Internet questionnaires.

It is a key reference document for those using flowcharts for programming, testing or any other purpose. top

Requirements of the standard

Flowcharts should be clear and consistent, primarily follow a vertical path, and use shapes that consistently represent the same items and actions. Flowcharts should be the only document used to specify question wording and flow of electronic social survey questionnaires, and lay out instructions, in the same way as the screen of the electronic questionnaire.

This section outlines the best practice principles of the standard. Criteria for how to apply the principles, and ensure adherence to the standard, are specified in the 'Guidelines for adherence to the standard' section.

Best practice for flowcharting

Flowcharts should be the only document used to specify question wording and flow of electronic social survey questionnaires, in order to:

  1. enable survey developers to see question relationships and how questions fit together in the context of the questionnaire
  2. ensure that the questionnaire can be programmed and tested against exact specifications
  3. increase efficiency by eliminating duplication of effort, and risk, of error from producing multiple documents that repeat information already recorded in the flowchart

The shapes used for flowcharting consistently represent the same items and actions, both within and across flowcharts. This consistency allows a flowchart to be interpreted uniformly by staff across Statistics NZ.

Layout is clear and consistent, so that the flowchart can be understood and followed.

Flowcharts primarily follow a vertical path.

Questions and interviewer instructions in the flowchart are laid out in the same way on the screen of the electronic questionnaire.top

Guidelines for adherence to the standard

The rest of this document covers specific aspects of flowcharting.

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