FeatureFriday: Quotas – target the right people for your survey

Author: Stuart Kondziella | Feature Friday | June 30, 2017


What is a quota?

A quota is typically defined as a "proportionate share or part […]" and furthermore as a "Limitation on the quantity that must not be exceeded […]" (Source: Business Dictionary).
As opposed to a rate which can refer to a period of time, a quota refers to population size.
The importance of non-probability sampling such as quotas lies in the fact that surveys, for reasons of manageability, are usually aimed at targeted research and specific audiences. These targeted audiences are almost impossible to reach with randomised sampling and hence require systematic selection, thereby providing the survey creator with only those participants who are relevant to the purpose of the survey. The answers that represent quota attributes can be for example aspects like gender, age or interests.

Master your LimeSurvey quota setup

The LimeSurvey quota setup is quite simple if you know where to look for it. Within the general survey overview, go to Survey properties and then find Quotas in the dropdown menu.

Quota Settings

Quota Settings
From here on, a quota is created in two steps.
Firstly, the quota settings are determined by clicking Add new quota and filling in the required data.
  • Quota name: descriptive name for the quota
  • Limit: maximum amount of completed surveys for respective quota
  • Quota action: action performed when participant ends up in quota that is already full
    • Terminate survey: will terminate survey immediately
    • Terminate survey with warning: allows going back to change answers before survey termination
  • Autoload URL: upon quota action, participant is redirected to this URL
  • Quota message: message sent to participant if quota is full
  • URL: displayed or redirected to after quota message
  • URL Description: text displayed for URL

Quota Setup

Quota Setup
Secondly, the created quota is specified by adding an answer of a survey question that is to set the condition for the quota specifications. There is an Add answer button designed for this purpose. For example, a quota can be set to allow maximum 10 participants between the age of 18-29 to enter the quota (see screenshot). The remaining answer options, i.e. other age spans, are (if not specified otherwise) not affected by the quota.
It is important to bear in mind that multiple quotas for the same question are connected logically with an 'and' operator, meaning both conditions have to be met to trigger the quota, therefore making them impossible to apply when using for instance single choice questions with only one answer possibility.

Quota Condition

Quota Condition

Quotas vs. conditions

Oftentimes, survey creators grapple with conditions in order to prevent certain people from participating in a survey when in fact they really require a quota. By approaching this matter with an inverted logic, quotas can be set to answer options that are assigned the number 0, thus actively screening out the people who select those answer options. Following this method, participants can immediately be excluded from a survey at any desired time along the way. This leads to more control over the survey and can prevent unwanted actions or opinions.
A good example for this case is asking people whether they agree to data protection policies regarding survey data. If this question is denied, thereby neglecting fundamental survey data guidelines, the person can be screened out and prevented from impacting survey results.

The benefits and risks of quota usage

LimeSurvey offers all features to paid subscriptions as well as free users. Quota management is no exception here.

Advantages of quota control:
Quotas offer simplicity, time saving and money saving when it comes to setting them up and accumulating respondents. Furthermore, the survey creator receives data from participants that are supposedly highly relevant and fitting to the research topic. If this level of relevance is in fact achieved, participants may be more interested and motivated to complete the survey which can lead to higher response rates.

Disadvantages of quota control:
Restricting a survey to only specific people can lead to the impression of researcher bias and losses in the quality and validity of statistics. Moreover, it may lack representativeness of a general population and instead may only refer to quota-specific characteristics in a small sample group.

The conclusion here is that working with quotas is a great and easy way to get surveys to the required types of people. However, it has to be treated with caution as the significance of the results is not applicable to larger masses of people.
LimeSurvey advice: test it and see for yourself!
Give it a try and set up some basic questions and answers attributed with quotas! Simply click here to get started.
If you want to learn more about quotas in LimeSurvey, simply visit our LimeSurvey manual.


Copyright © 2006- LimeSurvey GmbH