Question types in the questionnaire

Any question in an interview can be classified in a number of different ways:

  • open or closed, depending whether or not the answer can come only from a finite number of possible responses;
  • spontaneous or prompted, depending on whether respondents are asked to reply in their own words or given a number of options from which to choose a response;
  • open-ended or pre-coded, depending on whether the answer is recorded verbatim or against one or more of a number of predeter­mined answers.

We are using here the definition of an open-ended question that is commonly used in market research, which is that the responses are recorded verbatim, and distinguishing it from an open question, which seeks a response that may or may not be recorded verbatim. Whether a question is open-ended or pre-coded is determined by how responses are recorded rather than the question itself. However, the topic is included in this chapter rather than Chapter 7 (‘Writing the questionnaire’) because open questions and open-ended (verbatim) recording of responses frequently go together, and are frequently confused.

Open questions are usually asked spontaneously, and any prompted question is likely to be closed. Prompted questions will usually be pre­coded, but open questions can be recorded either as open-ended (verba­tim) or pre-coded responses.

Source: Brace Ian (2018), Questionnaire Design: How to Plan, Structure and Write Survey Material for Effective Market Research, Kogan Page; 4th edition.

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