[Solved] Setting Up Semantic Differential Question Stems


I have a survey that is made up of mostly semantic differential items. They appear 3-5 per page, with a common stem for the items at the top of the page. However, I have one item that has a unique stem, and that stem does not appear. How do I make that stem appear for that item?

Dennis Stauffer asked

    Best answer


    A stem is just the first part of the survey item, usually a partial sentence like “I prefer to…” or “I usually…”, that the two semantic differential options complete. When all the items on a page have the same stem, SG uses a single stem at the top of the page.

    I have figured out how to solve the problem using a combination of the question and additional instructional text.

    Dennis Stauffer answered

      Hey Dennis, I’m glad to hear you were able to find a solution!

      I’ve examined our Semantic Diff question type for some time now, and am still not sure which field you set the stem in — my best guess is the question title?

      You mentioned in your original question that a certain stem was not appearing, and if there’s any bad behavior in our app we’d love to investigate that and get it fixed up! If you happen to see this and don’t mind letting me know which field in the app was not displaying properly, I’d be happy to get that corrected 🙂

      Nathan - Survey Astronaut answered

        Hi athan,

        My use of semantic differential items dates from when they were a modification of a Likert type item. I put the stems in the question field. For my purposes, it’s working okay. I now know how to tweak the CSS code so that a stem appears at the top of the page, or wherever I need one. There doesn’t appear to be any way to do that without editing the CSS code.

        I’ve looked into changing to the new sd format but decided against it because:

        1. There’s no way to randomize items by flipping the left and right side answers. It says you can randomize the columns but that makes no sense to me. The whole purpose of sd is to gauge the strength of someone’s preference based on the button they choose. How does randomizing those buttons accomplish that? What purpose could it possible serve?
        2. You can’t assign values to the buttons without those values appearing in the survey. I need to be able to set values so the data can be scored. But if those values appear in the survey, they will suggest to the user that some answers are ranked higher than others and that there’s a “direction” to the scale. This will almost certainly bias the way those items are answered. I’m having a hard time figuring out how any well-designed survey can use your sd items in the current sd format.
        Dennis Stauffer answered

          I have to agree with Alexander here. I’m not entirely sure what you mean by ‘stem’.

          Justin - Technical Zen Master answered


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