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Open ended questions are defined as free-form survey questions that allows a respondent to answer in open text format such that they can answer based on their complete knowledge, feelings and understanding. This means that response to this question is not limited to a set of options.
Unlike a closed ended question that leaves survey responses limited and narrow to the given options, open-ended question allows you to probe deep into the respondent's answers, gaining valuable information about the subject at hand. The responses to these questions can be used to attain detailed and descriptive information on a subject.
Open ended questions are an integral part of Qualitative Market Research. This research technique depends heavily on open and subjective questions and answers on a given topic of discussion with room for further probing by the researcher, based on the answer given by the respondent. In a typical scenario, closed-ended questions are used to gather qualitative data from respondents.
When designing surveys, we often need to decide whether to use an open ended question versus close ended questions to get specific information. Yet we need to be aware of the fact that open ended question and close ended questions each have their own strengths and weaknesses and perform in different ways.
Typical Open Ended Question asking for additional comments/suggestions
Respondents appreciate it more when they’re asked open-ended questions as that gives them 100% control over what they want to respond and they don’t feel restricted by the provided options. The beauty of open-ended questions is that they can never be one-word closed answer, they’ll either be in form of lists, some sentences or something longer like speech/paragraph.
So, to understand this more, here are some examples of open ended questions:
In a study conducted by the Pew Research in their November 2008 post-election survey, respondents were asked, “What one issue mattered most to you in deciding how you voted for president?” One group was asked this question in a close ended questions format while the other group was asked this question in an open ended question format. The results are displayed below:
In the close ended questions format, 58% of respondents chose “The economy,” while in the open-ended format only 35% wrote in a response that indicated “The economy.” Note also that in the close ended questions format, only 8% of respondents selected “Other,” while in the open-ended format 43% of respondents wrote in a response that would have been categorized as “Other.”
Open ended questions motivate the respondents to put their feedback into words without restricting their thoughts. They aren’t as objective and dominant as close-ended questions.
By using open ended questions, the researcher gets to understand the true feelings their respondents have. They have an element that will give you information about different thought processes across your clientele, troubleshooting suggestions, get a peek into their inhibitions too.
So what does this mean for us? If you can, do qualitative research first and make sure your close ended questions represent the items that are in people’s heads. We need the list of items to be complete since few respondents will select the “Other” category. It may also be necessary to list items that are not readily available to respondents if those items are important to you
Consider doing split sample studies where half of the respondents see the question in the open-ended format while the other half sees the question in the close ended questions format.
When presenting results, I have found it helpful to explain to the audience, in a sentence or two, the fundamental differences between open ended question and close ended questions. This helps them understand that these are not necessarily precise measurements, but measurements that require some interpretation relative to other questions in the survey and other information from qualitative research. Hence, that is why they need an analyst like you or me!
Always think before designing a survey as to what your objective is. Scrutinize the objective, evaluate the positives and negatives of using an open or closed answer for your survey. Try it by sending out to a selected database, analyze the results and plan improvements for the next round of surveys.
Everything easy or complex requires competence. Asking the right question is also one such thing that requires capabilities. Capability to understand and segment the target audience, determine the kind of questions that will work well with that audience and determine the efficiency of open-ended questions.
Here are 4 ways to create effective open-ended questions:
Examples of open-ended questions like these are extremely popular and give you more value-added insights:
Observation is the key here. Observe what kind of questions do you usually ask your customers, prospects and every other person you come across. Analyze whether the questions you ask are closed ended or open ended. Try and convert those closed ended questions into open end ones wherever you think the latter would fetch you better results and valuable insights.
This trick works wonders. It’s not always possible to convert a closed question into an open one but it’s definitely possible for you to follow up by getting a question that is open ended answered.
For example, if you have a closed question like - “Do you think the product was efficient?” with the options “Yes” and “No”, you can follow it up with an open question like “How do you think we can make the product better?”When it comes to customer satisfaction surveys, the advantages of open questions surpass that of the closed ones.
Where can I see reports/collected data?
Please note that analysis for open ended text questions is not included in the Real-Time Summary Report. To view analysis on open-ended questions, you can view the Word Cloud report.
To make the question mandatory you can click on Settings and you will find a toggle button to turn ON the validation. WHY? When you add questions to a survey, by default, required option is turned off. When required option is not enabled, respondents can continue with the survey without selecting answers. If respondents go through all the pages in the survey without selecting answers, the response is still considered as complete. You can enable required option to make a question required so that respondents can continue with the survey only after responding to the questions.
With many ways to create a survey and so many options for customization, whatever kind of questionnaire you need, QuestionPro can help you create it. If you're looking at other survey creators, think about these following questions:
Quickly create open ended question surveys using our powerful web-based platform. You can make a survey with your own questions, copy a professionally written open ended survey template, or upload your survey with open ended questions directly from a Microsoft™ Word™ file. QuestionPro has over 30 question types, advanced logic, dozens of color themes and other customization options.
Reach respondents wherever they are using our email distribution system, embedding in your website or blog, with pop-up and exit questionnaires, promoting using our built-in QR Code generator or posting to social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google+. QuestionPro Questionnaires look great on mobile devices or tablets, and you can even collect responses offline using our SurveyPocket iPad & Android tablet or Smartphone app.
With our full suite of reporting features such as real-time summary, pivot tables, segmentation tools, trend analysis, and text analytics, analysis is efficient and effective. Need more in-depth options to comb through the data? Export your survey data directly to Excel, SPSS, or CSV. And it's easy to share results with formatted Word™ and PowerPoint™ reports or by generating great looking infographics and word clouds.