All about Business and management

April 24, 2008

Open-ended, multiple-choice, and Likert-scales items in surveys

Filed under: Business management — Jagdish Hiray @ 7:26 pm


          Identifying and writing survey items or questions are important aspect of any survey process. Survey items are the building blocks of the survey. The way the survey questions perform, the adequacy with which they obtain the desired information, has a greater influence on the results of the survey than any other single part of the process. Therefore, great care should be taken while building survey items. Survey questions fall into two general categories: closed-ended or multiple-choice and open-ended


Open-ended questions let the respondent verbalize the answer. An open-ended question does not provide the participant with a choice of answers. Open-ended questions are also referred to as free-response or free-answer questions. Instead, participants are free to answer the question in any manner they choose. Closed-ended, or multiple choice, questions ask the respondent to choose an answer from list of alternatives. While open-ended questions encourage respondents to answer in their own terms, they can lead to repetition, the gathering of irrelevant information, and misunderstandings about the intent of the question. The results obtained from open-ended questions are also more difficult to analyze. Multiple-choice questions limit respondent’s input into the wording of answers but ensure that the interviewer or anyone else is not influencing the answer by randomly encouraging elaboration or making suggestions for answers. Multiple-choice questions are easier for respondents to answer. They are also easier to analyze and tabular than open-ended questions. Unstructured questions are open-ended questions that respondents answer where as questions are more structured in close-ended questionnaires. Compare to open-ended questions in survey, multiple-choice questions reduces changes of interviewer’s bias opinion on a particular subject. In multiple-choice survey, questions are well administered and structural towards goal of survey compare to open-ended survey questions. Some researchers prefer multiple-choice questions to gather quantitative data. It is difficult to develop effective multiple-choice questions compare to open-ended questions. In general, open-ended questions are useful in exploratory research and as opening questions. However, multiple-choice questions or Likert scales are advantages in large surveys. Open-ended survey questions allow respondents to answer in their own words and allow the researcher to explore ideas that would not otherwise be aired and are useful where additional insights are sought. In contrast, multiple-choice questions require the respondent to choose from among a given set of responses. Multiple-choice questions with ordered choices require the respondent to examine each possible response independent of the other choices. It is difficult to develop effective multiple-choice questionaries.


The Likert scale is one of the most widely used itemized scales. The end-points of a Likert scale are typically strongly disagree and strongly agree. The respondents are asked to indicate their degree of agreements by checking one of five response categories: strongly disagree, disagree, neither agree nor disagree, agree, and strongly agree. The Likert scale has several advantages. It is easy for the researcher to construct and administer this scale, and it is easy for the respondent to understand. Therefore, it is suitable for mail, telephone, personal, or electronic surveys. The Likert scale is widely used in marketing surveys. The major disadvantage of the Likert scale is that it takes longer to complete than other itemized rating scales.


Create a free website or blog at