Open-ended questions are the lifeblood of qualitative research. They enable the respondent to give you an open, free-form response, devoid of limitations. They don’t limit how someone can respond, whereas closed questions typically only allow the person to respond from preset response, like Yes or No.
Open-ended questions might require the person to think more about their response, and it’s likely they will be longer form responses, however, the benefit is great. They allow you to learn a lot more about the person, like their motivations, behaviours or emotions. You can use open-ended questions to set challenges and get people to come up with ideas and solutions. For example, the question ‘What would you do?’ opens the widest doors and gets people to project themselves into new roles or environments.
The Five 'W's
The five major ‘W’s - Why, What, Where, Which and Who - are great ways to start an open-ended discovery question.
Open-ended questions are great for researchers when you need to:
- Explore situations or events
- Understand activities
- Analyse tasks
- Solve problems
- Generate ideas and
- Stimulate creative thinking
There’s no better way to discover/uncover more than you ever thought possible than to start with an open-ended question.
Here at Futher we can help you with qualitative and participatory research. We will work together with you to design and frame your qualitative research projects so you not only ask the right questions, choose the right methods and techniques, and recruit the right participants, but so that your participants are active collaborators and empowered by the process.
To learn more, download our guide to online qualitative research using the link below.