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ODK common errors and solutions

Error uploading form: The form definition could not be processed: XForm Parse Error. XPath Dependency Cycle: Dependency cycles amongst the xpath expressions in relevant/calculate >>Expression containing ${fieldname} >> Something broke the parser. See above for a hint.

Have you received this error while using ODK? SurveyCTO is here to help!

What does this error mean?

A dependency cycle error typically indicates that through a series of relevance interdependencies, a field in your form is now relevant upon its own value, which is logically impossible.

The most common (and simplest) cause of such an error is when you have a relevance expression for a field in which you reference the field itself (e.g. “. = 1”). Since a field can’t be relevant based on itself, this leads to a dependency cycle error.

Other causes are when you have a series of relevance expressions or calculations connected in a logical loop, such that a relevance expression for a current field or a calculation depends upon itself.

How do I fix this error?

  1. Look at all the relevance expressions for every field mentioned in the error message.

    Does any relevance expression for a field refer to the field itself? It could be that the field name is spelled out in the expression ( “${fieldname}”) or you have used a “.” in a relevance expression, which stands for “current field” in ODK. So check for both possibilities.

  2. If no relevance expressions are accidentally referencing their own field, you will need to trace the path along all fields mentioned in the error message to determine where the fields “loop” in on themselves to create a dependency.

    Assume you have three fields, ${field_one}, ${field_two}, and ${field_three}. ${field_two} has a relevance expression that depends on ${field_one}, ${field_three} has a relevance that depends on ${field_two}, but then ${field_one} depends on ${field_three}. Since all three fields depend on each other in an illogical way, an error is created. So look for accidental loops of that nature, and then fix the references so they no longer create a logically impossible loop.

We hope you found this helpful. Feel free to browse through our other ODK error guides. To try SurveyCTO for yourself, and see all the improvements we made to ODK, you can sign up for a free 15-day trial. We offer 24×7 support from research experts, customizable form designs, smart data quality controls, and best-in-class data security.

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Chris Robert


Chris is the founder of SurveyCTO. He now serves as Director and Founder Emeritus, supporting Dobility in a variety of part-time capacities. Over the course of Dobility’s first 10 years, he held several positions, including CEO, CTO, and Head of Product.

Before founding Dobility, he was involved in a long-term project to evaluate the impacts of microfinance in South India; developed online curriculum for a program to promote the use of evidence in policy-making in Pakistan and India; and taught statistics and policy analysis at the Harvard Kennedy School. Before that, he co-founded and helped grow an internet technology consultancy and led technology efforts for the top provider of software and hardware for multi-user bulletin board systems (the online systems most prominent before the Internet).