Why you should use open-ended questions in your surveys

One of the most effective question types used in surveys is open-ended questions. They are typically used to gather a freer response than what is possible with fixed answer options. However, it’s important that you decide early on what the answers will be used for and how you will analyze them to maximize their utility.

What are open-ended questions?

In a survey with open-ended questions, the respondent is allowed to use their own words. The answer options are not limited or organized into categories or gradations. The respondent answers in free text form. In many surveys, multiple-choice questions are mixed with open-ended questions. These questions give the respondent greater freedom in their response and allow room for expressing themselves, providing feedback, or giving further explanation.

What are the advantages or disadvantages of asking open-ended questions?

An open-ended question is often perceived as more inclusive because it allows the respondent to express their opinion freely. Therefore, the answers give you a good understanding of attitudes and opinions. Open-ended questions can also yield unexpected and interesting results that you may not have anticipated beforehand. Answers to questions that you may not have even thought to ask.

Of course, there are also disadvantages to asking open-ended questions. The analysis often takes longer as it can be difficult to compile the answers into categories without first manually coding all the free-text responses. It can also lead to a lower response rate because it requires a bit more effort to formulate an answer than simply choosing from predefined answer options.

Examples of open-ended questions

An open-ended question lacks predefined answer options. Instead, the respondent is invited to express their views on something or suggest potential improvements. The questions should be designed so that the answers focus on what is most important or critical for the survey participant. Otherwise, the answers may become too varied to provide good opportunities for analysis. Here are some good examples:

  • What matters most to you when choosing a supplier of…?
  • What improvement would you consider most important for us to make?
  • What was the primary reason for you choosing to become a customer with us?

Well-formulated questions can provide insights that you would never have obtained in a survey with closed questions.

We assist you with your survey

If you want to learn more about how to design a survey with open-ended questions, feel free to contact us at Research Automators. We have extensive experience in streamlining surveys, regardless of the method used.