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Open-Ended Questions
Open-Ended Questions

Open-Ended Questions
Guide with Examples

Open-ended questions do not have a predetermined answer or set of responses. They encourage people to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in their own words, and allow for more in-depth exploration of a topic.

The first thing you need to decide when conducting a survey is the type of data you need. Some might want the data to be quantifiable, while others want to collect more in-depth data. Nevertheless, open-ended questions are optimal for collecting relevant data for various purposes.

Open-ended questions help you get interesting answers from your target audience. If you use a simple closed-ended question, it will only give you a limited answer. For instance, you might ask a close-ended question, “How would you rate your experience with the product on a scale of 1 to 5.”

But you can convert it into an open-ended question such as “Can you tell me more about your experience with the product?” As a result, you can better understand the customers’ experience with the product. This article will cover in-depth what open-ended questions are and how to use them to make the most out of them.

What is an Open-Ended Question?

Open-ended questions play a critical role in market research for a particular topic. It will include various open and subjective questions that respondents can freely answer. They can express their opinions or leave a review without any limitations.

The best thing about the open-ended question is that it allows the respondents to answer it according to their understanding and experience. They neither have to choose from a list of options nor do they have to pick an answer from yes/no.

The comprehensive information that you get from the audience opens room for discussion. An open ended-questions opens up new horizons for the researchers and respondents to explore. It is a type of question where you can ask “why” and “how” to your respondents.

The answers that you receive vary from individual to individual. Thus, it allows you to get a wide range of perspectives, allowing the researcher to further study.

Key Features of Open-Ended Questions

There are some elements and features that you need to include in your open-ended questions. Doing will help allow you to create a better structure for the questionnaire. Furthermore, it will help you decide whether or not such questions should be a part of the survey

  • Element of Surprise
    Open-ended questions help you find surprising things customers have to say about your brand. You might come across unexpected answers regarding the topic. Also, respondents have the luxury to provide their opinions or share some ideas. You might come across a novel idea that could come as a surprise. It can also help you get an outsider’s point of view that your team didn’t think about.
  • Genuine Customer Input
    Open-ended questions make the respondents feel empowered to express their feelings with full honesty. They’ll share their honest opinions and genuine perceptions when answering the questions. They can openly share what they like about your products or services. Moreover, it allows them to point out things that they didn’t like about the product or service. Either way, respondents can share what they have on their minds.
  • Free Answer
    Another key characteristic of open-ended questions is that it doesn’t provide limited answers. The audience has room to express their opinion about the service or product. They also have the liberty to provide more in-depth answers. For instance, customers can tell what they didn’t like about the product and suggest improvements. You won’t find this in close-ended questions since they don’t allow you to express the complete feelings and views of the audience.
  • In-Depth Opinion
    The customers put in a lot of thought processes before answering an open-ended question. Since they have the liberty to express their feelings, they’ll give an in-depth opinion about it. These types of questions aren’t restricted to a simple yes or no. Therefore, you can get valuable customer feedback to help your business in the long run.

Benefits of Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions allow you to gather a wide range of opinions and thoughts from respondents. As a result, you have more subjective information available that offers a deeper understanding of your customer’s mindset.
Let’s learn some benefits that you can get from using open-ended questions:

  1. Helps You Get More Details
    Open-ended questions allow the respondents to open up and express their opinions in much more detail. The responses have more clarity since users can write clearly what they have in their minds. Also, you’ll get less ambiguous answers from open-ended questions. The primary reason for that is because is that their responses don’t get tied to a rating scale or various choices.
  2. Allows for Unlimited Responses
    There are endless possibilities regarding the answers you’ll get for a particular question. Therefore, it removes any limit when it comes to your data collection opportunities. Each respondent will have a different approach when answering the questions. They’ll look at all the aspects and angles before coming up with a response.
  3. Offers Comprehensive and Qualitative Data
    Close-ended questions help you get quantitative data only. It is because the data is in percentages or numbers. While this type of data might be easy to calculate, it doesn’t allow you to understand it more deeply. So, if you want to get qualitative customer data, the best way is by asking open-ended questions. It helps you determine the reason behind a particular incident, allowing you to make informed decisions.
  4. Gives You an Idea of the Complete Customer Journey
    Some customers would tell how they found out about your brand/product/service. They’ll also share their complete customer journey from the start to the end. Therefore, you can better understand the sales funnel and the areas where the customers face issues. You can take relevant steps to ensure that customers have a streamlined process.
  5. Allows You to Understand Sentiments and Opinions
    Customer presents their POVs (Point-of-views) through their answers. So it gives you a better idea of their feelings, perspectives, and opinions. You can also use tools to analyze the sentiments behind the customers’ answers. You can use different tools to analyze huge amounts of responses from open-ended questions. It can help you determine which business aspects are performing well and where you need improvement.

Drawbacks of Open-Ended Questions

Before you use open-ended questions, you need to know about their drawbacks. That way, you can decide whether or not there is the right type of questions for your surveys.

  1. A Lot of Irrelevant Information
    There is a possibility that your survey would contain a lot of irrelevant information. Moreover, people might also make spelling mistakes or misuse any words. There is also a chance that people might not write with perfect grammar. So, it might be difficult for you to comprehend what the customer is saying. Some respondents might also provide you with irrelevant information that makes no sense.
  2. Difficult to Analyze
    Another thing is that open-ended questions are harder to analyze. The responses contain unstructured data, making them difficult to understand.
    Since there aren’t any numbers you can compute, it is difficult to figure out the quantitative data. So, the interpretation of the data may vary from individual to individual.
  3. Time-consuming
    The biggest drawback of open-ended questions is that they can be time-consuming. Respondents don’t have multiple choices that they can choose from and then move on to the next question. They would have to give it a thought and then write their answers.
    Sometimes the answers might require a lot of explanation. Therefore, it can be a long and time-consuming process for the respondents. But remember that the data is valuable if you encourage the respondents to answer.

Types of Open-Ended Questions

The primary goal of the open-ended question is to get a more comprehensive answer than a single-liner. They want the respondents to fully tell their opinions and experience on the particular topic. That is why the surveyors will either one of the following when phrasing an open-ended question:

Context Questions for Open Ended Questions

These types of questions help the respondents understand the context. It will tell them to respond more thoughtfully instead of just answering in a single word or line.

When to Use Open-Ended Questions?

The open-ended question works best if you want to find qualitative data for research purposes. Open-ended questions are more suitable in situations where you create a platform for deeper understanding.

They allow the target audience to share their feelings, opinions, and perspectives more clearly. Thus, you can get a better insight and context about their point of view. The researcher can use the data from the open-ended question surveys and the use it to improve their efficiency.

They can use it to enhance their organizational process, products, services, or anything else. The audience also has the opportunity to freely express their happiness or dissatisfaction about the topic. For instance, you can ask them the following open-ended questions to know their opinions:

  • What is the thing that you enjoyed most about our products?
  • What are the areas which you think need improvements?

And not just for products or services, you can also carry out open-ended question surveys in the office. It’ll give you a better idea of what your employees think about the organizational environment.

Quick Tips for Writing Good Open-Ended Questions

Creating high-quality survey questions that generate valuable data can be challenging. Nevertheless, here are some tips to help you out with it.

  1. Don’t Ask Questions Where Respondents Can Answer “Nothing”

    There is no point in such questions since they don’t provide insight into the customers’ perspectives. In fact, it may prompt the respondent to write “nothing” as their answer. For instance, you might ask:
    What things do you think can be made better?“.
    There is a possibility that users might leave “nothing” as an answer. It is best to test your questions before you send them out to avoid getting such answers.

  2. Keep it Simple

    Getting into specifics and technicalities might confuse the customer. They would give completely different answers since they won’t understand the context of the question. Asking about a specific touch-point from your target audience is vital. And the best way to do this is by keeping your questions simple. Keeping your questions simple and focused will help you receive valuable information. Moreover, you should avoid technical jargon or slang, as customers might understand the question.

  3. Avoid Asking Questions that are Too Broad

    Asking questions that are too much broad can give you a vague answer. For instance, if you ask questions with examples, then it might lead to vacuous answers. It might also discourage the respondents from answering since it would feel like a hassle to them. Furthermore, such questions might also lack focus, resulting in futile information and data. So, it is best to ask open-ended questions that give you to-the-point answers.

Strategies for Analyzing and Interpreting Open-Ended Responses

Once you have collected open-ended responses from your online survey, it is essential to analyze and interpret the data in a meaningful way. Here are some strategies for analyzing and interpreting open-ended responses:

  1. Identifying themes and patterns in the data:
    Look for recurring ideas, concepts, or words that emerge from the responses. Organizing these themes can provide insights into the attitudes, behaviors, and opinions of your participants.

  2. Using coding and categorization techniques:
    Assign codes or labels to each response based on the themes identified. These codes can be used to group similar responses together and make sense of large volumes of data.

  3. Prioritizing and summarizing key findings:
    Identify the most important and relevant responses and summarize them in a concise and meaningful way. This can help to identify areas of strength and areas for improvement.

  4. Comparing open-ended responses with quantitative data:
    Compare the open-ended responses with the quantitative data collected in the survey to gain a deeper understanding of the results. This can help to identify trends and patterns that might not be apparent from the numerical data alone.

  5. Using visualization tools to present results:
    Use visualization tools such as graphs, charts, or word clouds to present the results in a clear and engaging way. This can help to communicate the key findings to stakeholders and make them more accessible and understandable.


In conclusion, incorporating open-ended questions into online surveys offers numerous advantages and benefits. By allowing participants to share their opinions and experiences in their own words, open-ended questions can provide more detailed and insightful responses, complement quantitative data, and enhance the accuracy and validity of survey results.

To design effective open-ended questions, it is important to consider the type, format, and wording of the question, as well as strategies for analyzing and interpreting the responses. Additionally, best practices such as balancing open-ended and closed-ended questions, limiting the number of open-ended questions, and ensuring anonymity and confidentiality can improve the quality and validity of survey results.

Incorporating open-ended questions into your next online survey can enhance the quality and usefulness of the data collected. So, we encourage you to take advantage of the benefits of open-ended questions by including them in your next survey design. With a well-designed and thoughtfully executed survey, you can obtain valuable insights and make informed decisions that will benefit your organization or research.

Learn about further Online Survey Question Types

FAQ on Open-Ended Questions

How using open-ended questions in an interview can be beneficial?

Interviewees like open-ended questions since they can express their opinions in more detail. They aren’t restricted by any options, allowing them to express their opinions in more detail.

What is an example of an open-ended question?

The open-ended questions encourage the other person to express their opinions in detail since they can’t be answered in one word or line. An example is “where do you see yourself in five years?

What is the best way to start an open-ended question?

The best way to begin your question is by using why, how, what, and where. These encourage the respondent to give a detailed answer instead of a simple “yes” or “no” response.