What is an Open Ended Question?

The word “question” can refer to many different questions, and just one of many options is an open ended question. Today, we’ll discuss open ended questions, including exactly what they are, when to use them, and their place in research.

We’ll also share examples of open ended survey questions, how to phrase them to collect the most valuable insights, and discuss the differences between closed ended vs. open ended questions.

What is an Open Ended Question?

Let’s begin by defining an open ended question.

open ended questions don’t have a “yes” or “no” answer. Unlike closed ended questions, which require respondents to pick from a limited set of answers, open ended questions invite the respondent to provide a unique response in their own words—free from any pre-determined choices.

This helps researchers collect qualitative data to provide greater insight into their research topic.

When to Use Open Ended Questions

When conducting research, you’ll find open ended responses are instrumental in understanding the motivations and opinions of the people you’re talking to. In addition, they offer a powerful way to gain insights into a person’s behavior, beliefs, attitudes, and values.

open ended questions can also reveal more information than closed ended questions because they allow respondents to go into greater detail and provide their own perspectives.

open ended questions are constructive when uncovering why people feel or think the way they do. They’re also ideal for asking follow-up questions based on an initial response or dialogue—or gaining further clarification on a particular topic.

Read this article next to see why you should use QDA software when you collect answers to open ended questions.

Examples of Open Ended Questions

Now that we know what open ended questions are and when to use them, we’ll turn our attention to examples of open ended questions.

Here are a few helpful examples that paint a picture of what these questions can look like:

  • What inspired you to pursue your current profession?
  • How do you picture your life in five years from now?
  • What are some of the biggest challenges you have encountered on this project? 
  • How would you say technology is changing the way we interact with each other?
  • What do you believe is the meaning and purpose of life?

As you’ll notice, none of these questions can effectively be answered with just “yes” or “no.” Instead, they invite the respondent to elaborate and dig deeper into their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Phrasing open ended Questions for Quality Answers

When it comes to phrasing open ended questions correctly, you can do a few things to ensure the quality of a respondent’s answers.

1. Keep open ended questions short and simple

First, keep your questions relatively short and simple—avoid long or overly complex wording that may confuse your respondents. Instead, phrase them in a way that’s easy to understand and succinctly conveys the information you hope to uncover.

2. Make them relevant

Ensure your questions are relevant and pertinent to the topic or issue. This will help ensure the answers you receive are meaningful and valuable in addressing whatever research subject you’re investigating.

3. Explain the context of the question

Be sure to explain your question’s context—this gives survey respondents a better understanding of what you’re looking for and why it matters. When possible, provide additional detail about why this particular inquiry is vital so they can give an informed answer.

Naturally, this can get in the way of keeping questions clear and concise. But as you gain experience crafting questions and conducting research, you’ll start to find that delicate balance between being informative and brief.

4. Avoid leading questions

Try to avoid leading questions that suggest a particular answer or contain discriminatory language. Instead, use neutral language. Then, let the respondent draw their own conclusions.

Struggling to maintain your motivation while you’re researching? Check out this post for helpful tips!

Closed Ended vs. Open Ended Questions

Next, let’s look at the differences between closed ended and open ended questions.

Generally speaking, closed questions require respondents to provide a specific answer from a pre-determined set of options—this can limit the depth of your survey responses, as there’s no room for elaboration or further dialogue.

Conversely, open ended questions are more free-form. They invite respondents to provide longer, more in-depth answers. 

When used correctly, open ended questions can be precious tools for conducting research or gathering authentic feedback. Sure, they may require additional effort on your part when it comes to analyzing responses (LiGRE helps with that!). But the quality of information you gain is often worth it.

This isn’t to say closed ended questions don’t have their benefits and uses, however! Notably, they can be helpful in collecting data quickly.

Frequently Asked Questions About Open Ended Questions (FAQs)

Finally, here are three popular questions we’re asked on the topic:

What is an open ended question example?

One example of an open ended question is: “How do you feel about the proposed changes to employee compensation?”

What are good open ended questions?

There are all kinds of ways to create good open ended questions. What separates a “good” question from a less effective one is whether the question invites the respondent to answer in the most effective way for your unique research needs. 

What is a closed versus open ended question?

Closed ended questions require respondents to provide a specific answer from a pre-determined set of options. Alternatively, open ended questions facilitate more free-form responses. They invite the respondent to elaborate on their response rather than a one word answer.

Try LiGRE Qualitative Data Analysis Software Today

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use and powerful tool to analyze your qualitative data, look no further than LiGRE. Our user-friendly platform allows you to conduct a thorough analysis of your data quickly—start using LiGRE today!

Did you learn a lot about open ended questions today? 

Here are three more posts to read next:



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