In survey research, close-ended questions and open-ended questions are the two basic ways to design questionnaires and interviews. Close-ended questions like the name suggest are the ones that provide some limits to the audience to answer the questions or record the responses as in the questionnaire. In the questionnaire, the researcher provides some options for each question and in the interview, the researcher asks a question and then provide options verbally to the interviewee to select the answer. This provides some limits to the data that is collected but it also makes the process easier and bring uniformity in the data.
Close-ended questions can be answered with simple “yes” or “no” or they can have some options like “agree”, “do not agree”, or “to some extent”.
Close-ended questions can be very helpful in studying facts than opinions of the respondents. For example, conducting a survey of high school students you can ask these questions in the close-ended form: What is your favorite subject? Which teacher do you admire most? What field would you like to choose as you will enter college? or What is your favorite sport? Questions that start with why and how needs to be dealt in detail and could not be answered in a close-ended form.
- These type of questions have higher response rate because respondents find it easier to select options then to write lengthy answers.
- Statistical analysis is also easier as the purpose of every interview and questionnaire is to analyze the responses statistically so this is a big benefit to the researcher.
- These questions are a great asset when you want to collect facts than the opinion of the respondents.
- In quantitative survey studies, these questions are the best option for the researcher to use.
- When the sample size is large the researcher has to manage time and other resources using close-ended questions saves time on data collection, administration, analysis, and interpretation. Students often use close-ended questions in the survey because of the time restraint.
- Close-ended questions are also beneficial when the researcher already knows a lot about the subject and he knows that the questions have fixed answers that the respondents will give.
- Some information that can be generated from the experience of the respondents is lost because the respondent is bound to select the options than to give his own opinion.
- Some respondents might find the options to be insufficient and cannot decide what option is best to choose.
- It does not yield rich data.
Close-ended questions and open-ended questions combined
In rare cases, when the researcher has a big project to handle and has sufficient resources he/she combines both types of questions in his research. In this way, the researcher first asks open-ended questions from a focus group or he might prefer to have in-depth interviews. The findings of open-ended questions and interviews are used to get information about the research topic and this helps in developing close-ended questions for the actual sample. This takes a lot of time but it provides rich data that has higher reliability and validity.
- Ferrell, S. (2016). Open-Ended vs. Closed-Ended Questions in User Research, Nielsen Norman Group, Sited on https://www.nngroup.com/articles/open-ended-questions/
Krause, N. (2011). A Comprehensive Strategy for Developing Closed-Ended Survey Items for Use in Studies of Older Adults, PMCID: PMC3046550 NIHMSID: NIHMS272744