There are two types of questions which can be asked. They are Closed Questions and Open Questions.
A closed question does not allow the respondent to provide unique or unexpected answers but to choose from a list of pre-selected options.
Those options would be
- a direct and honest response (yes or no)
- a lie (yes or no)
- out of context (don’t know)
- partial answering (maybe)
- avoid to answer (no answer given)
- stalling (hesitating to answer)
- distortion (saying an inappropriate answer which is not required)
The question is: What is your name?
The student answers ‘Jim’ (That could be his name or a lie)
he might answer (don’t know or ‘tell you later’) which are answers out of context.
He might answer ‘J’ which is only partial answering.
He might hesitate to say his name or simply say nothing.
His final response might be to say something like ‘yes’ which is an inappropriate answer to the question asked.
The ability to ask open ended questions is very important for education, counselling, mediation, sales, investigative work and journalism but not necessarily in surveys, as we shall see later in this lesson.
Answers to closed questions look for a short one-word answer, whereas answers to open questions are longer and require creativity and information.
An open question is also intended to encourage a full meaningful answer using the other person’s own knowledge and/or feelings.
Before we look at some questions for a survey, let us compare the two types of questions in everyday English.
CLOSED Who are you?
ANSWER John or (I’m John) or (My name is John)
OPEN Tell me about yourself
ANSWER My name is John and I am a school student
CLOSED Do you go to school on foot?
POSSIBLE ANSWERS Yes/No/Sometimes/Never
OPEN How do you go to school?
ANSWER I usually go to school by minibus
CLOSED Do you smoke?
POSSIBLE ANSWERS Yes, No/Sometimes/Never
OPEN What do you think about smoking?
POSSIBLE ANSWER I think smoking is unhealthy
CLOSED It’s hot today, isn’t it?
POSSIBLE ANSWER Yes it is/No it’s not
OPEN How is the weather today?
POSSIBLE ANSWER I think the weather is cool
NOTE: A Question Tag always creates a closed question.
CLOSED Do you want to eat fried rice or noodles?
POSSIBLE ANSWERS Fried rice/Noodles,Both/Neither
OPEN What do you want to eat?
POSSIBLE ANSWER I want to eat a pizza
CLOSED What is the colour of your shirt?
POSSIBLE ANSWERS Red/Blue/Yellow/White/Mixed
OPEN Describe the shirt you are wearing
POSSIBLE ANSWER It has no collar and short sleeves
THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE SCHOOL SURVEY
Now let us take a look at some suitable questions for a survey about an English language course and identify whether they are closed or open questions.
CLOSED Do you speak English?
CLOSED How many languages do you speak?
CLOSED Do you attend an English language school?
CLOSED In which age bracket are you? (eg 8-11, 12-15, 16-19, 20-40)
CLOSED What is your name?
CLOSED Are you Indonesian?
OPEN Tell us about yourself
OPEN Describe your first day at school
OPEN What do you think about an English language school?
OPEN Why do you want to learn English?
OPEN How does learning English make you feel
OPEN How often do you read a book in English?
CLOSED How would you rate the importance of learning English on a scale from zero to five?
Students should practice writing out their own open and closed questions for a survey.
Good topics would be eating out at a restaurant, hobbies, going on holiday and Art Museums.
Enjoy the lesson!