I am preparing my first screener survey to recruit some participants for an interview.

I am getting mixed views on if these questions should be open ended or not.

For example, I have the following questions:

  • How often do you shop in Townsworth High Street? [Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Never]
  • How often do you attend events in Townsworth? [Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Never]
  • Do you prefer to “shop local” or support local businesses than a high street chain? [yes, no] (although I know I shouldn't have yes/no questions, but not sure how I can reword this to get people who prefer to shop locally in the interview)
  • How often do you read reviews about a shop before visiting? [Always, Sometimes, Less Often, Never]
  • How often do you read reviews about a product before purchasing? [Always, Sometimes, Less Often, Never]

Should some of these be open ended questions such as

  • Tell me about the events you attend in Townsworth
  • Tell me why you prefer to shop local than high street chains

Should I be using open ended questions in the screener survey or leave these until the actual interview?

The NN Group mentions having open ended questions: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/screening-questions-select-research-participants/

Any advice would be great, thanks!

  • For the local-vs-chain question, consider "If you could get the same item at the same price, would you prefer to purchase it at a high street chain, or a local business? [local, chain]". Nov 28, 2020 at 16:09
  • Thanks, I will probably use your question, but it is still a yes/no type of question with 2 options. I don't know any other ways of asking it or getting the information out of them without a yes or no. Nov 28, 2020 at 17:36
  • Or maybe I could do something like: Do you prefer to “shop local” or support local businesses than a high street chain and why? - giving them space to tell me why or why not Nov 28, 2020 at 17:39
  • If asking for an explanation, stick with my wording but add the "Why?" on the end - If you use "prefer ... than" (which is not grammatical, to my understanding; a comparative like that should be 'prefer...to'), I get the sense that there's a 'correct' answer; by not using the comparative, I feel it erases the implication. Nov 29, 2020 at 1:05
  • My experience with surveys is that many questions are worded such that it is clear what answer the surveyor "wants"; if you want honesty, the individual questions and the progression of questions as a whole should, as much as possible, avoid any appearance or implication of bias toward one "side" of the fundamental target or the other. A perceived bias will cause your respondents to self-select, and you may not get responses from those who disagree with your presumed bias. Nov 29, 2020 at 1:10

1 Answer 1


Yes, they can sometimes gauge how open and descriptive your subject will be. But don’t ask so many it can dilute the quality of each response due to limited subject commitment. It’s a lot to ask upfront.

To keep responses more informative, try asking for specific things such as what they liked about the events, why they attend them, with who, etc. These serve to guide the user into providing more information than for example “The events are nice”.

For some more ideas, check out IDEO’s research facebook group. They post multiple recruiting surveys with open ended questions - https://www.facebook.com/IDEOresearch/

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