In social science research, open-ended questions and close-ended questions are the two forms of questions that the researcher can use in his/her interview schedule and in the questionnaire. The wording, type, and format of questions are very important to consider when formulating interview schedule or while formatting questionnaire. This can impact the validity, reliability, and accuracy of your research instrument.
In open-ended questions, the researcher does not provide options for the respondents to choose their answer. The respondent can answer whatever seems best to him/her this provides greater freedom to the respondents and in-depth data can be collected using open-ended questions both in interviews as well as in questionnaires.
While deciding about using open-ended questions in an interview or questionnaire the researcher should keep in mind the purpose of the research and the statistical procedures that are to be used to analyze the data. In a qualitative research, open-ended questions will yield detailed responses which are the aim of a qualitative research, on the other hand in a quantitative research the aim is to collect quantitative data which can not be generated from open-ended questions. The choice of an open-ended question also depends on the type of audience that is going to answer the questions.
In some cases the researcher himself/herself is not well acquainted with the audience whom he is going to ask questions or the topic is not well understood and he wants to yield detailed answers from people who already know about it, he/she decides to use open-ended questions. This yields in-depth information because the respondents know a lot about the topic and from that information the researcher make meaningful interpretations. This is also very useful for topics that are sensitive and needs to be dealt with caution.
An example can be to ask questions from the survivors of a war about their experiences of that time or to ask questions about favorite vacation spots from a group of people.
- The most basic advantage of open-ended question is that it provides detailed responses from the audience if you think that your audience is educated enough about the questions you can ask them open-ended questions.
- In open-ended questions, the investigator bias is minimized because the investigator does not propose the options and the respondents decide themselves.
- The respondents can express themselves freely when they are asked open-ended questions w
- The detailed answers from the open-ended questions are difficult to analyze and interpret as compared to the close-ended answers that bring uniformity in the data.
- It also requires knowledge and skill to analyze these answers and take meaningful notes from the responses.
- In analyzing the open-ended questions the researcher bias can be introduced because he/she has to analyze these answers in his own way.
- In open-ended questions, some respondents provide detailed answers that have no relevance to the questions asked such information is useless to the researcher.
- Some respondents find it difficult to give detailed answers and they leave questions unanswered especially in the questionnaire.
- Respondent bias can also be introduced if the person answering the question has biases about the topic.