Focusing on surveys there are two types of questions we as survey authors have in our quiver. Structured questions are our workhorse. This question line relies on closed-ended categories pre-selected by the researcher. There are two primary advantages to structured questions:
- They require a lower cognitive load on the respondent. They reduce the amount of thinking that a respondent needs to undertake to complete the task. This generally leads to higher response and more accurate data.
- They are easier for the researcher to code and analyze. This is of tremendous importance, especially if you are a research shop of one.
- Single response with nominal or ordinal categories (e.g. From the following list please select the category which includes your household income)
- Multiple response (e.g. From the following list of pizza toppings please any or all that you regularly use)
- Scaled questions (e.g. The President is doing a good job – Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree), and
- Numerous variations on these primary types.
Open-ended questions require additional time on the part of the researcher to analyze and code the responses although text-mining software is making this easier. For best results on a survey, keep open-ended questions to a minimum and use them as sub-questions driven by critical responses to a structured question. For example, if someone selects a high or low response to the Net Promoter Score, you can follow up with unstructured questions asking the respondent to elaborate on their score.