Benefits and Challenges of Open-ended Questions 1

Convenor: Dr Evi Scholz
Affiliation: GESIS
Email: evi.scholz@gesis.org

Session Details

Open-ended questions in surveys often support getting insights into respondents’ understanding of concepts, ideas, or issues. The efforts to prepare, code and analyse data of open-ended questions in contrast to closed questions are considerable. Thus, open-ended questions in general population surveys are not as popular as closed questions. While for closed survey questions much methodological research has been conducted, open-ended questions are, in terms of methodology, rarely covered. However, the increasing number of access panel web surveys offer the chance of more intensive use of open-ended survey questions and more investigation of related methodological aspects.
Recent research on open-ended questions examines, e.g., mode effects or the length of answers as quality indicator for responses. Other research deals with reasons for non-response. The quality of answers to open-ended questions is one source of survey error that, if based on factors other than randomness, will result in biased answers and put the validity of the data into question – often disregarded in substantive analyses and thus challenging its value.
The proposed session aims to help filling that gap. We welcome papers on open-ended questions referring to
a. Use of open-ended questions,
b. Typology of open-ended questions,
c. Mode effects,
d. Design and design effects, e.g., question order or position in a questionnaire,
e. Coding techniques and their challenges,
f. Response behaviour,
g. Effects of response and non-response,
h. Bias analyses,
i. Comparison of software for textual data analysis,
j. Analyses techniques,
k. Any other topic that addresses quality or assesses the value of open-ended questions and their answers.
We also welcome papers that investigate other methodological aspects, e.g., comparative aspects (general population surveys vs. special sample surveys; response behaviour regarding open-ended vs. closed questions for the same topic; or cross-cultural differences in response behaviour to open-ended questions).