Questionnaires are a low-cost and effective way to get actionable feedback from your audience and customers.
There are countless options for the kind of questions to ask.
There are ordinal scale questions to gauge sentiment like what’s found in a Likert scale survey.
You also have close ended questions which make it easier to collect specific types of data.
In this article, you’ll learn more about closed-ended questions and how to use them in your surveys and customer research to make better decisions.
What are close ended questions
Close ended questions are questionnaires or survey questions that ask respondents to choose from a narrow predefined set of responses. You provide the responses for the respondents to select. This is different from what happens with open-ended questions because it allows the respondents to reply in an open-text format.
The questions can be multiple-choice, dichotomous (like yes or no, true for false), or any variation thereof. These types of questions commonly start with “can” “did” “will” or “have” but can be prefaced with other modifiers.
Close-ended questions are ideal for collecting quantitative data which can be quickly analyzed. That means software programs such as KyLeads surveys can help you extract deep insights from your surveys automatically.
Advantages of close ended questions
There are many advantages when you use this kind of question properly. Keep in mind that they’re not ideal for all scenarios so you should weigh the kind of information you want to collect before using them.
- Easy for respondents to answer
- People are able to interpret the questions and options quickly
- Respondents are only able to choose from a series of relevant answers
- Can be interpreted and analyzed automatically by your survey software
- Increases the likelihood that respondents will answer personal questions
- Option to provide an “other” box if the provided answers aren’t relevant to the survey taker
Disadvantages of close ended questions
Though they have many advantages, there are still disadvantages of close ended questions. It’s important to be aware of them so you can take proactive measures to reduce their occurrence or eliminate them altogether.
- Can cause the acquiescence bias which prevents people from being critical of your organization or products when you need their honest opinions
- Can also cause the central tendency bias when these types of questions are grouped together
- Since there are a preset number of options, respondents may answer with a choice that’s irrelevant for them or skip the question altogether
- It doesn’t lend itself well to questions that require complex responses or that you’d like to understand the thought process that went into answering. For example, an NPS survey uses a close ended question but also follows up with an open-ended question to understand the thought process behind the answer.
- Too many answer options (like in a rating scale) may be used which will make the question appear daunting to respondents.
When to use close ended questions
Now that you know what a close ended survey question is and isn’t, let’s look at the ideal times to use them.
To collect easily quantifiable data
As mentioned before, close ended questions lend themselves to being quantified automatically by software. They have a series of preset answers and respondents select one or the other. All the software would need to do is record how many people answered in a specific way and display it as a percentage or absolute number.
Because of this, you’re able to gather large amounts of data about a narrow subject with minimal effort. For example, if you want to know things like if someone has used your product before, their gender, age ranges, etc.
When you want to quickly validate (or invalidate) a simple hypothesis
These questions aren’t good for handling complex information or understanding how someone thinks about a situation. Instead, they’re great for getting quick responses when you want to understand how a limited number of choices interact.
For example, a question like “do you listen to podcasts” can be answered with a simple yes or no. Another question like “how old are you” doesn’t require the person answering to give you detailed information. Instead, the usefulness of the information comes from a concise answer.
When you want to restrict responses
This may seem counterintuitive but there may be many times when you want to restrict the number or types of responses you get. It increases the consistency of your data set and, as mentioned earlier, it’s easier to quantify and analyze the information you get.
For example, if you wanted to know how someone was voting in an upcoming election that had three candidates, there would be three close ended options. If you were to leave it as an open-ended question, you’d have to deal with things like improperly spelled names, explanations for the choice, and other irrelevant factors.
Types of close ended questions
These are questions that only have two possible answer choices. Either you (or an object of interest) are something or aren’t something.
For example, do you listen to podcasts?
The river close to your home is free of pollution?
It’s the easiest type of question for respondents to interpret and answer.
These questions are also easy to use and analyze. Just like with dichotomous questions, respondents are able to interpret them fairly easily and give you useful information during research. They’re also commonly used in standardized testing situations.
These close ended questions often consist of multiple parts called the stem (the question itself), the correct answer (especially in testing situations), distractors (when there’s a correct answer, these serve to throw respondents off the scent), and a few similar answers.
Within multiple choice questions, there are many categories:
- Likert scale
- Ranking order question
- Star, numbered, or smiley rating scale
- Checklist or multiple choice
Examples of close ended questions
1. How old are you?
2. Did you enjoy the movie?
3. Are you moving to a new city this year?
4. How would you rate your customer service experience?
5. Do you use an Apple iPhone?
6. Have you heard of our company before today?
7. Did you find what you were looking for?
8. Which of these options best describes your interest in sports?
9. Do you have a substantial amount of money saved up?
10. What is your income range?
11. Are you male or female?
12. Which of the following best describes your situation?
13. May I go out?
14. Do you have anything else to add?
15. Do you want to further your education?
As you can see, there are countless variations to closed ended questions. The most important thing to keep in mind is what kind of answer flows naturally. Would it be better to provide an open text format for respondents or give them a preset number of answer options?
If, under normal circumstances, someone would answer with more detail then it may not be a good choice for a close ended question. For those situations, consider using an open-ended question.
Close ended questions are a useful way to collect data that’s easily analyzed and quantified. It’s not the best strategy to collect qualitative information.
In almost every survey, there’s room for both open-ended and close ended questions. It’s up to you to decide which one works in your particular situation.
Let us know if you have any questions in the comments and don’t forget to share.