Openended questions

These are questions in which possible answers are not suggested, as they are by the two previous types of question. The respondent is free to respond in any way at all, and so response variation may be extreme. The interviewer must record all that the respondent says, which can introduce bias if he or she decides to record only what seems relevant. When the completed questionnaires are returned, the responses require manual analysis, which is time and labour consuming, and therefore expensive. Since there is likely to be a high degree of variation in response, the results will be qualitative rather than quantitative. These practical limitations usually mean that not more than one or two questions on a questionnaire are open-ended. Wherever possible, qualitative work is carried out before the stage of questionnaire design, so that multiple-choice questions or attitude scales can be used to quantify qualitative findings and avoid the need for open-ended questions on large-scale surveys. In smaller scale surveys when statistical validity is not a prime objective, open-ended questions are of great value in exploring complex and variable topics.

An example might be, 'What are the things you take into account when buying aircraft components?'

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