Types of questionnaires
Questionnaires typically include mainly or solely ‘closed’ response items. ‘Closed’ items limit the responses that a participant can provide. Examples of closed items include the Likert (i.e. 1-5) scale, ‘agree/disagree’ items, or items which give the respondent a selection of statements which best reflects their view, as in the example below (taken from the Educational Self-Efficacy Scale):
The data gathered from 'closed' items can be subject to descriptive and inferential statistical analysis.
Open-ended items allow your participants to express and elaborate on their perceptions and attitudes regarding the topic you want to evaluate. Several questionnaires benefit greatly by incorporating a small number (typically 1-3) of ‘open-ended’ items in addition to the main scale of ‘closed’ items. Below, we provide some examples of the kind of ‘open-ended’ items used to augment an otherwise ‘closed’ questionnaire, and we highlight the kind of phrases to use in open-ended items:
- Can you explain ways in which the course helped you to improve your confidence?
- How has the course helped to prepare you for your future?
Some questionnaires use exclusively open-ended items. For example, some studies (Kieser, Dall'Alba, & Livingstone, 2009) looking to research/evaluate/promote professional identity development have been based solely on participants’ open-ended responses to the following two items:
- Give an example of a concrete situation which shows what you think is central to the work of a [medical doctor].
- Give an example of a concrete situation in a [medical doctor’s] daily work that you think can be difficult to deal with.
Another recently-developed instrument (Ahn, 2017) takes this even further by using the following single open-ended item to evaluate students’ sense of belonging:
- Write down up to 10 words that come to mind when you think about belonging to your [university/college/department].
Open-ended items/questionnaires can be subject to both quantitative and qualitative analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006).
Ahn, M. Y. (2017). Sense of Belonging as an Indicator for Social Capital: A Mixed Methods Analysis of Students’Sense ofBelonging to University. Prifysgol Bangor University.
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101.
Kieser, J. A., Dall'Alba, G., & Livingstone, V. (2009). Impact of curriculum on understanding of professional practice: a longitudinal study of students commencing dental education. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 14, 303-314. doi:10.1007/s10459-008-9114-6