Types of Survey Questions

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The questions are the primary tools in collecting necessary information from the respondents of a survey. By making the right choices on the type of survey questions, you will be able to extract only data that are related to the purpose or goal of the survey.

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Before constructing questions, you must be knowledgeable about each type of question used in survey research. These basically include:

1. Closed-Ended Questions

Closed-ended questions limit the answers of the respondents to response options provided on the questionnaire.

  • Advantages: time-efficient; responses are easy to code and interpret; ideal for quantitative type of research
  • Disadvantages: respondents are required to choose a response that does not exactly reflect their answer; the researcher cannot further explore the meaning of the responses

Some examples of close ended questions are:

  1. Dichotomous or two-point questions (e.g. Yes or No, Unsatisfied or Satisfied)
  2. Multiple choice questions (e.g. A, B, C or D)
  3. Scaled questions that are making use of rating scales such as the Likert scale (i.e. a type of five-point scale), three-point scales, semantic differential scales, and seven-point scales

2. Open-Ended Questions

In open-ended questions, there are no predefined options or categories included. The participants should supply their own answers.

  • Advantages: participants can respond to the questions exactly as how they would like to answer them; the researcher can investigate the meaning of the responses; ideal for qualitative type of research
  • Disadvantages: time-consuming; responses are difficult to code and interpret

Some examples of open-ended questions include:

  1. Completely unstructured questions- openly ask the opinion or view of the respondent
  2. Word association questions - the participant states the first word that pops in his mind once a series of words are presented
  3. Thematic Apperception Test – a picture is presented to the respondent which he explains on his own point-of-view
  4. Sentence, story or picture completion – the respondent continues an incomplete sentence or story, or writes on empty conversation balloons in a picture

3. Matrix Questions

Matrix questions are also closed-ended questions but are arranged one under the other, such that the questions form a matrix or a table with identical response options placed on top. For example:

Please rate the following characteristics of the product based on your satisfaction ( use a check mark):


Strongly Satisfied




Strongly Unsatisfied



















Overall Appearance







4. Contingency Questions

Questions that need to be answered only when the respondent provides a particular response to a question prior to them are called contingency questions. Asking these questions effectively avoids asking people questions that are not applicable to them. For example:

Have you ever smoked a cigarette?

___Yes ___ No

If YES, how many times have you smoked cigarette?

__ Once

__2-5 times

__ 6-10 times

__more than 10 times

The second question above is what we refer to as a contingency question following up a closed-ended question.

Full reference: 

(Apr 8, 2012). Types of Survey Questions. Retrieved Jun 18, 2018 from Explorable.com: https://explorable.com/types-of-survey-questions

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