In a conversation, when completing a research survey, being interviewed for a job or working on a homework assignment, you might find yourself presented with a series of closed-ended or open-ended questions. Close-ended questions are those which can be answered by a simple "yes" or "no," while open-ended questions are those which require more thought and more than a simple one-word answer.
If you can answer a question with only a "yes" or "no" response, then you are answering a close-ended type of question.
Examples of close-ended questions are:
Are you feeling better today?
May I use the bathroom?
Is the prime rib a special tonight?
Should I date him?
Will you please do me a favor?
Have you already completed your homework?
Is that your final answer?
Were you planning on becoming a fireman?
Should I call her and sort things out?
Is it wrong to want to live on my own at this age?
Shall we make dinner together tonight?
Could I possibly be a messier house guest?
Might I be of service to you ladies this evening?
Did that man walk by the house before?
Can I help you with that?
May I please have a bite of that pie?
Would you like to go to the movies tonight?
Is math your favorite subject?
Does four plus four equal eight?
Is that haunted house really scary?
Will you be going to Grandmother's house for Christmas?
Did Dad make the cake today?
Is there a Mass being held at noon?
Are you pregnant?
Are you happy?
Is he dead?
Close-ended questions should not always be thought of as simple questions that anyone can quickly answer merely because they require a yes or no answer. Close-ended questions can also be very complicated. For example, "Is 1 in binary equal to 1 in counting numbers?" is a close-ended question that not everyone would be able to quickly answer.
Open-ended questions are ones that require more than one word answers. The answers could come in the form of a list, a few sentences or something longer such as a speech, paragraph or essay.
Here are some examples of open-ended questions:
What were the most important wars fought in the history of the United States?
What are you planning to buy today at the supermarket?
How exactly did the fight between the two of you start?
What is your favorite memory from childhood?
How will you help the company if you are hired to work for us?
What do you plan to do immediately following graduation from college?
What types of decorations do you plan to have for your friend's birthday party?
What was your high school experience like?
How did you and your best friend meet?
What sites do you expect to see on your vacation?
How do you go about booking tickets for a flight?
What were the major effects of World War II for the United States?
How do you go about purchasing a home?
What is it like to live in the capital of Morocco?
What is the quickest way to get to the pet store in town?
Why is it that every time I talk with you, you seem irritated?
In what way do you feel I should present myself?
How do you manage to raise those children alone?
What is the matter with the people in that class?
Where are you going to find the time to write all those letters?
Why can't I come along with you?
What makes the leaves change color?
How exactly does one replace the screen to a cellular phone?
Although open-ended questions require lengthier responses than do close-ended questions, open-ended questions are not always more complicated. For example, asking "What are you planning to buy today at the supermarket?" may simply require the respondent to read off of a list.
When These Questions Are Used
Either type of question can be used in a wide variety of scenarios. However, if you're looking for a guide to liken these types of questions to, you can think of close-ended questions as multiple choice questions on a school exam and open-ended questions as short responses and essay questions on an exam.
Open-ended questions require a response with more depth and a lengthier response. Open-ended questions are also helpful in finding out more about a person or a situation, whether it's during an interview, at a party, or when getting to know a new friend.
Close-ended questions can be answered in only one word or very short phrase. Close-ended questions can also be used in the situations mentioned above, although they have the potential to end the conversation.
Here are examples of close-ended questions in these types of situations:
Would you like vanilla ice cream?
Have you ever met Joe before?
Where did you go to college?
What is your best quality?
Are you happy?
Do you enjoy your car?
Does your brother have the same interests as you?
Do you have a pet?
Do you like animals?
When is your birthday?
Do you like rain?
Now, here's some examples of these close-ended questions turned into open-ended questions - to keep the conversation going:
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream and why?
How did you meet Joe?
What do you feel was most beneficial about your college experience?
How can your top qualities help our company to thrive and grow?
What are some of the things that bring you the most joy?
Why did you decide to purchase a Volvo?
What interests do you and your brother share, and which interests do you not share?
Do you have a pet and what is your pet like?
Do you like animals and why?
When is your birthday and how do you like to celebrate?
Do you like rain and what do you usually do during rain storms?
From these examples, it is clear that close-ended questions are used to elicit a short, quick response, while open-ended questions are gateways into conversations.