Open Versus Closed Survey Questions

Use of Open Survey Questions

Question types used in surveys are differentiated between open and closed questions. Most questions are usually either an open or closed question.
Open Ended Questions in Online Surveys
Open ended questions ask a question and provide a space for the answer (usually known as an answer or text box). Most, if not all, other types of questions are a closed question. The distinguishing characteristic of open ended questions is that they elicit an unprompted response, which gives the respondent alot of freedom to express their answer. It can result in very "rich data", although, the opposite can occur too - lack of or poor quality responses. The key disadvantage, however is that they are difficult to analyse and quantify.
When to Use Open Ended Questions
Open ended questions are frequently used in online surveys, but tend to be used sparingly in each individual survey, mostly because the data is hard to analyse. In some ways breaking up closed questions with the occasional open ended question can help add some varierty to questionnaires; they can also complement closed questions by exploring an issue or set of issues touched on previously with closed questions. For example, to ask why an answer was given in a previous question.

Three Types of Open Ended Question

Broadly, open ended questions typically appear in three variations: a) open ended text box b) single code box c) multiple text boxes.
Open Ended Text Box
The open ended text box style is designed to make room for a longer response - a paragraph of text. The way the text box appears (a larger stretched area text box) signals to the respondents that they should write a longer answer of sentences or multiple ideas. This has the benefit of encouraging rich data, but is harder to analyse.
Single Open Ended Text Box
The single open ended text box also allows the respondent to write in words, but since it appears in a small box, invites the respondent to write in fewer words. It is typically suited to recording brands or concepts which can be summarised in a single word or a few words.
Multiple Text Boxes
The third variation of open ended questions, the multiple open ended question, is useful for capturing open ended lists, or open ended ordered lists. For example, which brands come to mind, or list in order of priority the three factors most important when assessing a brand. The format of several separate text boxes encourages the respondent to separate out their responses. Again, it is better suited to teasing out single issues, words, or short sentences.

Use of Closed Survey Questions

Closed questions are, by definition, a question type which presents a set of options, which closes down the range of responses to a pre-determined list. 
Advantages of Closed Questions
There are several advantages associated with closed questions. First, the fact that questions display a list of answer codes makes it a simple process of completing the question. Some closed questions are more difficult to fill in than others (e.g. long matrix questions) but in general, they are an easy option for the survey participant.
Second, because the respondent merely has to read through the list of options, rather than write in the answers (as with open ended questions), they are often quick to fill out.
The third advantage is perhaps the most significant and is particularly important from the perspective of the user of the research. Closed questions automatically codify the data of the respondents. When it comes to analysing the responses, the data is automatically tabulated.
Disadvantages of Closed Questions
Closed questions also have disadvantages: namely that they limit the number and range of answers, do not allow respondents to freely express their answers in the way they might prefer, and in broader terms, are less useful for exploring perceptions or attitudes. 

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