Closed-ended question

Closed-ended question definition

A closed-ended question generates a limited set of responses that can be coded easily in a database with some number or symbol that represents a response. Multiple-choice, ordinal, interval, and ratio questions generate closed-ended responses.

Closed-ended questions should not always be thought of as simple questions that anyone can quickly answer merely because they require a yes or no answer. Close-ended questions can also be very complicated. Anyone who has ever filled out a multiple-choice test can testify to that. But they are easier to analyze than open-ended questions.

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Closed-ended question examples

Here are examples of closed-ended questions:

  • Would you like vanilla ice cream?
  • Where did you go to college?
  • What is your best quality?
  • Do you enjoy your car?
  • Does your brother have the same interests as you?
  • Do you like animals?
  • When is your birthday?

Be aware that you don't turn your closed-ended questions into a leading question.

close ended question example

Closed-ended question advantages

  • It is easier and quicker for respondents to answer
  • The answers of different respondents are easier to compare
  • Answers are easier to code and statistically analyze
  • The response choices can clarify question meaning for respondents
  • Respondents are more likely to answer about sensitive topics
  • There are fewer irrelevant or confusing answers to questions
  • Less articulate or less literate respondents are not at a disadvantage
  • Replication is easier

Closed-ended question disadvantages

  • They can suggest ideas that the respondent would not otherwise have
  • Respondents with no opinion or no knowledge can answer any way
  • Respondents can be frustrated because their desired answer is not a choice
  • It is confusing if many response choices are offered
  • Misinterpretation of a question can go unnoticed
  • Distinctions between respondent answers may be blurred
  • Clerical mistakes or marking the wrong response is possible
  • They force respondents to give simplistic responses to complex issues
  • They force people to make choices they would not make in the real world

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Vincent is the author of this solution article.

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