“Good research questions prompt people to tell stories, and not just answer questions.”

This blog post is really just a writing exercise. We will be working on creating better questions. We will alter close-ended questions to form open-ended questions.

focus group

Why open-ended questions?

Good question. Open-ended questions allow your respondents to explain themselves and better describe their story. An interview would be rather pointless if each question was responded with either “yes” or “no.” Open ended questions allow for a more natural conversation and open up the room for participants to expand on statements.

Why is it important to ask the right questions?

The right question will give you the right answer. The problem with that statement is the fact that one never knows what the right question is until they receive the answer.

Being able to phrase your questions can be incredibly important in advertising, especially when developing questions for focus groups, interviews, and ethnographies. The WSJ has a pretty well-written article about how question phrasing can drastically alter how one responds to a political survey and/or questionnaire.

To create the right questions takes lots of practice. I am no expert. I may not be an expert, but I would like to share with you my technique. Tell me what you think!

So here are some examples:

  1. Have you ever sent a text message while driving?
    1. In what situation would you find yourself sending a text message while driving?
    2. How would you describe your daily texting behavior?
  2. Would you say you travel abroad frequently?
    1. How would you describe your traveling frequency?
    2. Why would you travel abroad?
  3. Do you post a lot of pictures on Instagram?
    1. How would you describe your activity on Instagram?
    2. What drives you to post a picture on Instagram?
  4. Do you prefer to shop at big boxes or locally owned stores?
    1. When shopping, what types of stores do you prefer?
    2. What are the benefits and detriments of, both, big box and locally owned stores?

Let’s try a few more right?
Don’t worry about getting a little less direct with your new open style questions. This can be a good thing. That said, try not to ask about water bottles when you are interested in knowing about TV shows.

  1. How often do you eat sweets?
    1. How would you describe your intake of sweets?
    2. What are your favorite sweets?
  2. Do you tend to buy things that are on sale?
    1. How much of an impact does a clearance sale have on your purchasing decisions?
    2. In what ways would a sale (either online or retail) influence you when shopping?
  3. Do you like to eat wheat bread?
    1. What is it about wheat bread that you enjoy?
    2. What is your opinion on wheat bread?