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Open-Ended Survey Questions: The Key to Collecting Qualitative Data

Open-Ended Survey Questions

The effectiveness of the surveys comes down to the questions you ask. And, if you are still trying to come up with the perfect questions to gain adequate information from your target audience, open-ended questions are infallible.

Open-ended questions seek answers from respondents in their own words, helping gain visibility into their unique experiences. Such questions carry more value for both the parties conducting and answering the survey.

The end goal of any survey is to draw out valuable opinions from respondents and understand their perspectives. Including open-ended questions in your surveys will ensure that you provide the respondents with the opportunity to be more descriptive and express their opinions freely.

This detailed guide answers all the doubts you may have about open-ended questions and their usability. Get started by understanding what these questions are, where to use them, and how to analyze the collected answers using a powerful survey software.
What Are Open-Ended Questions?

Open-ended questions cannot be answered with simple Yes/No, or pre-defined answers. These questions elicit a detailed response that can help you gain deeper insights. Such questions provide the respondents the opportunity to give free-form and descriptive answers. This freedom allows for a better expression of their ideas and opinions.

Take the following question, for example-

What do you like most and least about this product?

Instead of providing a pre-set range of answers, this question lets the respondent answer as they wish.

Fundamentally, open-ended questions provide room for the answer to be more detailed. It does not limit the respondent to choose from a fixed set of answers that do not match their opinion exactly.

Open-ended questions offer several key benefits in surveys, including rich and detailed data, improved response rates, increased engagement, and the ability to identify patterns. These questions can be particularly useful for qualitative research, where the focus is on understanding the experiences and perspectives of the respondents.

6 Tips to Write Effective Open-Ended Questions

Typically, open-ended questions are what and how types of questions. The aim of asking these questions is to encourage the respondents to answer freely. To write well-structured open-ended questions, you need to:

1.Start with “how,” “what,” “tell,” etc. This will encourage the respondent to provide more information and offer a good starting point for a conversation.

2. Keep the questions free of any bias. Avoid leading questions that limit the scope of answers or suggest a specific answer.

3. Use hypothetical questions to encourage critical thinking.

4. Give respondents the freedom to answer however they like.

5. Avoid lengthy or overly complex questions, as this can make it difficult for the respondent to provide a clear answer.

Ask questions that encourage the respondent to reflect on their experiences and thoughts rather than provide factual information.

8 Top Advantages of Open-Ended Questions

The following benefits of open-ended questions make them a powerful tool for data collection and analysis.

1. No Restrictions or Word Limit

Let respondents decide how much information they wish to reveal. Open-ended questions offer greater flexibility in the types of answers that can be collected, making it easier to adapt to the needs and the particular topic being investigated.

2. Richer Data Collection

Open-ended questions engage respondents in a more meaningful way and encourage them to think more deeply about the topic being surveyed. This can lead to more invested and attentive respondents, which in turn results in improved quality of collected data.

3. Improved Accuracy

Closed-ended questions may not always accurately gauge thoughts. On the contrary, open-ended questions enable respondents to provide more nuanced and complex answers, leading to a more precise representation of their experiences and opinions. They also eliminate the risk of the user not having enough knowledge about the subject to choose from pre-defined answers.

4. Make Respondents Feel Comfortable & Valued

People are more likely to participate in a survey if they feel that their opinions and thoughts will be valued and taken into consideration. Open-ended questions offer this opportunity and can therefore improve response rates in surveys.

5. Obtain Unpredictable Responses

Open-ended questions allow respondents to bring up new ideas and perspectives that may not have been considered previously. This can lead to a more thorough exploration of the topic being surveyed and uncover new insights.

6. Elicit Valuable Information

Open-ended questions allow respondents to provide more information and detail than closed-ended questions. This can lead to a richer understanding of the topic being surveyed and provide valuable insights into the attitudes, experiences, and thoughts of the respondents.

7. Solve Complex Problems

Complex issues or topics may not be easily understood through closed-ended questions. Open-ended questions allow respondents to express their thoughts and opinions in their own words, leading to a more comprehensive understanding of complex issues.

8. Identify Patterns

The detailed data obtained from open-ended questions can be analyzed to identify patterns and themes, providing valuable insights into the topic being surveyed. This can be particularly useful for qualitative research, where the focus is on understanding the experiences and perspectives of the respondents.

Why & How To Use Open-Ended Questions?

Open-ended questions can be used in various instances. Whether you are looking for detailed feedback on a particular product from your customers or more insight into the target market, there are a number of cases where it is better to ask open-ended

Instance 1: Following-Up

Open-ended questions can be used to follow up on close-ended questions. Add open-ended questions to your surveys to enable respondents to expand on their answers. 

Instance 2: Get More Context

In situations where you need more contextual answers, it is better to use open-ended survey questions. For example, you can use an open-ended “why” question post NPS surveys to understand the customers’ reason and intent behind the rating, allowing you to identify areas of improvement. 

Instance 3: Understanding Emotions

Open-ended questions are the perfect opportunity to gauge emotion. For example, a business can learn about how the user feels about the product or service by analyzing their choice of words, language, and overall tone. 

Instance 4: Complex Situations

There are several complicated situations where it is important to gain as much information as possible. For example, when it comes to customer support, it is better to use a detailed open-ended question over a yes/no question. 

Instance 5: Initial Discovery

When you are just starting out to build connections with new prospects or gather qualitative information to improve future interactions, it is best to use open-ended questions. 

Open-Ended vs. Close-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions help you gain more elaborate responses. On the other hand, close-ended questions seek selection from a pre-written set of responses. 

Every successful survey should be able to strike the right balance between both question types. 

Open-ended questions consume time and effort, so if you ask such questions that are not worthy of being answered comprehensively, then it’s possible that customers don’t complete your survey. It signals a poor survey response rate that you would certainly like to avoid.

Close-ended questions set respondents’ minds at ease by enabling them to complete surveys in a jiffy. To sum up, you must play smart while adding questions to your surveys and keep the end objective in mind. 

Try out this interesting quiz to test your knowledge of open-ended and close-ended questions. 

Open-ended And Closed-ended Questions! Quiz – ProProfs Quiz 

15 Open-Ended Questions Examples 

Looking to get started with including open-ended questions in your surveys? Here are some of the most effective examples of open-ended questions that you can use. 

  1. How did this product solve your problem?
  2. What do you think is the primary advantage of using this product?
  3. What excites you the most about this product?
  4. If you could change anything about your experience, what would it be?
  5. How do you feel about the overall experience with this product?
  6. How does this product compare to the other alternatives available on the market?
  7. Tell us about your onboarding experience. 
  8. What can our team do to meet your needs better?
  9. What are your top priorities at the moment?
  10.  What are the major roadblocks you are facing currently?
  11.  How will you be measuring the success of the project?
  12.  How would you describe the company’s work culture?
  13.  How can we improve the shopping experience for you?
  14.  Please describe a time when you used our service to improve business efficiency. 
  15.  What would you say about the quality of our customer service?

All of these questions let the respondent express their own opinions instead of choosing from pre-defined answers. 

Make the Most out of Open-Ended Feedback 

Use these questions in your surveys and get started with gaining actionable insights. Since every answer is bound to be different and unique, arriving at a strong conclusion can be an uphill task. For this, you need an effective tool that collects all the responses in one place and makes its analysis easier. 

By analyzing open-ended responses properly, you will get a better opportunity to understand the needs of your audience and provide exactly what they want. The collected responses require a thorough qualitative analysis that aims to identify trends and commonalities.

In order to statistically analyze the answers, you need a powerful tool like ProProfs Survey Maker. Such an application will help you track survey activity effortlessly. Dive deep into your customers’ perspectives and suggestions with its robust reports and analytics. 

The drag-and-drop interface of the tool will allow you to create the best surveys with effective open-ended questions and evaluate every single response effortlessly. You can visualize the collected data and use this visibility to improve future outcomes. 

Do you want a free Survey Software?

We have the #1 Online Survey Maker Software to get actionable user insights.

About the author

Emma David is a seasoned market research professional with 8+ years of experience. Having kick-started her journey in research, she has developed rich expertise in employee engagement, survey creation and administration, and data management. Emma believes in the power of data to shape business performance positively. She continues to help brands and businesses make strategic decisions and improve their market standing through her understanding of research methodologies.