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Open-Ended Vs Closed-Ended Questions

Market research 04 12
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Open-ended and closed-ended questions make up your Survey. You need to make the best use of the two types to gather insightful data.

Open-ended questions involve asking respondents to answer the question in their own words. It is a text-based question where you give the respondent space to write their answer in.

Closed-ended questions involve providing answer options to the respondents. The respondents select their answers from the predetermined options instead of writing their answers.

Now let’s go through the difference in details.

Open ended vs Close ended questions1


Open-Ended Questions

Defining Open-ended Questions:

Exploratory in nature, open-ended questions are descriptive questions. Asking the respondent to describe their answer, you receive rich, qualitative data. The respondents are not restricted, instead they get the opportunity to fully express themselves.

As a market researcher, you gain deep knowledge and get a peek into the thought process of your respondents. The extensive feedback allows you to understand the expectation and experiences of your customers/employees.

You can use open-ended questions in your online surveys. However, open-ended questions are generally involved when you use survey methods like Interview (phone/face to face) or Focus Group.


  • What are your opinions on our Courier Service?
  • What changes would you like to suggest in our new store?
  • What concerns do you have with “product/service”?
  • How do you feel working with your team?
  • What inspired you to work with our company?

Open-ended questions require more than one-word answers. These questions usually start with “Wh- and How questions”, because the respondents need to describe their thought, opinion, experience, feelings, etc. in the answer.

When to use open-ended questions?

Open-ended questions are most valuable when you need to collect qualitative data. It helps you gather extensive information on your concerned research matter. This characteristic of open-ended questions makes it suitable for various uses.

For Interview Survey: Answering open-ended questions require the respondents to think their answer through. They need to put lots of thought into providing a comprehensive response to the questions. Hence, for interviews which require a direct interaction between the researcher and the participant, open-ended questions are the perfect option. It can help you collect their opinion uncensored giving them the freedom to answer in all honesty.

Small research study: When you have a small sample size open-ended questions can help you gain valuable insight from all the participants which is not possible in a large group. Surveying a small group will help you obtain unique responses with unique perspectives. Say your group has 10 participants you can take your time to talk and listen to their opinion without limiting their responses.

For Business: When you want to do research on your target market you can ask open-ended questions to your customers. You can understand what your customers enjoy about your company. You can ask them how you can improve their experience and how you miss fulfilling their expectations. This way you can identify not only weaknesses but also your strengths. As a result, you can develop strategies to improve your business.

Drawbacks of Open-ended Questions

  • It requires more time and effort to collect feedback by using open-ended questions. The respondents are required to provide detailed information of their thoughts as a result the researcher has to put in a lot of effort and time.
  • Feedback collected is qualitative in nature which cannot be translated into statistical information. The result cannot be quantified.

By asking open-ended questions along with valuable information you may also end up collecting irrelevant questions. The respondents can provide as much feedback as they want. As a result, you may end up with a lot of irrelevant data to process.

Open ended vs Close ended questions2


Closed-Ended Questions

Defining closed-ended questions:

Closed-ended questions limit the respondents’ ability to answer the survey questions to the predetermined list of options. This means that the respondents cannot provide their own. By using closed-ended questions you receive specific answers.

You can ask the respondents exactly what you want to know, and use the list of options to gather the intended response.

You can use closed-ended questions for surveys like email surveys, SMS, social media, or website surveys.

Surveys involving closed-ended questions can be completed in less time than open-ended questions. The questions are straight to the point with a predetermined list of options. The respondent doesn’t have to spend time thinking of their answers.


  • Are you satisfied with our delivery agent?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Would you refer our products/services to your family and friends?
  • Yes
  • No
  • On a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (good), how happy are you with our brand?

The data gathered is quantitative in nature. These are statistical information and thus can be quantified. Closed-ended questions involve yes/no, multiple-choice, true/false questions, etc. You can structure the multiple-choice questions as checkboxes, dropdown, radio button, etc.

When to use closed-ended questions?

Close-ended questions are used in surveys to obtain precise and relevant information. The aim is to obtain responses that can be translated into a statistical report to develop data-driven strategies for the business.

Need Quantifiable Data: For surveys when you want statistical information, closed-ended questions make a perfect choice. The questions give us quantifiable data and are conclusive in nature. You can analyze it easily and also display the result in graphs/charts for better demonstration. With the options provided in closed-ended questions, you can segment the audience based on the answers they selected.

Segmenting Audience: Closed-ended questions on demographic factors can help you to segment the respondents into separate categories; Age Group of “below 20”, “20 to 40”, and “above 40”. This way you can create a customer profile as well. The segments can help you understand the expectations and needs of a different group of audience. This way you can target a specific group with strategies that cater to their needs.

Drawbacks of Closed-ended questions

  • Since the list of options is limited, sometimes the answer options may not reflect the honest opinion of the respondents. Even if you try to cover all possible answers you may miss the desired answer option of the respondents.
  • Also, you cannot provide too many options because it may cause confusion about which option to choose, which may lead to frustration.
  • In case the researcher is not well informed on the research matter, the questions may not be suitable for the survey goal.
  • Closed-ended questions cannot provide the “why”. You cannot gather information about what the respondents think and why they think the way they do.

Basic Difference between Open-ended and Closed-ended Questions

Open-ended questions allow you to gather a wide variety of responses. You can collect answers with a unique perspective. The respondents have the freedom to express themselves. As a result, you may come across some point of view which you may not have thought of.

You may also gain insight into things you may not have noticed about your brand. Also, using open-ended surveys in interviews and focus groups gives you the opportunity to discuss complex issues with the participants

Closed-ended questions in a survey can help you save time and effort while gathering a large volume of responses. When you need to collect data from a large audience that is representative of your target market, closed-ended questions help you the most.

Also, by using a predetermined list you guide the respondents into providing the kind of answer you expect for the survey. This limits the chance of collecting irrelevant answers. Also because of the answer options present, it is easier for the respondent to understand what you are asking from them.

Open ended vs Close ended questions3

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An Open-ended Question gives the respondents the freedom to write their own answers. They are not bounded by any predetermined set of answers. The respondents answer according to what they feel and think in their own words.

A Closed-ended Question provides the respondents with a list of predetermined answers. It could be ‘yes or no’, ‘true or false’, or multiple-choice questions. The respondents are asked to select their desired answer from the list.

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