SurveyCTO Coding Practices

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This article discuss solutions to common issues in the SurveyCTO programming language. For a general introduction to how to structure your approach to CAPI programming or best practices settings, see the Questionnaire Programming topic.

Read First

All coding examples linked to in this section are stored in Google Drive. SurveyCTO also allows you to pull this code directly to your server, using the URL of the Google Sheet (alternatively, you can copy the code to Excel).

Randomization in the field

The best practice is to prepare the randomization before the field activities start, and preload the result of the randomization into the survey. See randomization in SurveyCTO.


This sections lists code examples for special requirements in relation to rosters.

Select Member in Roster Based on Criteria. In this example we have a roster over children and then we want the respondent to be asked to select the youngest child if the mother is present, if she is not present, we ask the respondent to select the second youngest child if the mother of the child is present, and so fourth. See code example where children are selected from roster by age.


Use a lot of groups but do not over use them. In general, groups are used to fulfill one of the purposes below:

Choice Lists

Choice lists are the answer options an enumerator can choose from in a select one or select multiple question. They are listed in the choices tab in the SurveyCTO questionnaire. Open Data Kit, the programming language of SurveyCTO, has very few restrictions on how you can code your options. However, there are choice list best practices that matter for data quality.

Dynamically Populated Choice Lists - Basic. It is possible to program dynamically populated choice lists using answers given by the respondents in a previous question.

Dynamically Populated Choice Lists - From repeated select_one. A specific example of dynamically populated choice list is when you populate a select_multiple question with answers from a select_one asked in a repeat group. For example, say that you list crops grown in a repeat group where each repeat is a crop, and later you want to be able to ask "which crop did you grow the most?" and only the crops already selected in the repeat group should display. This can be done and is described in the dynamic choice lists from select_one.

Repeat Groups

Repeat groups can be used to develop interesting functionality within forms. Here are some examples of this:

Categories to add to this page:

  • Repeat groups
  • Household rosters
    • General examples
    • Updating roasters from previous rounds on tablet during interview
  • ID and identification
    • Assigning IDs in the field - both when the sample is know before launch of survey and when respondents are sampled in the field

Additional Resources

Please add here related articles, including a brief description and link.