Section 7: Open questions

The questions we’ve explored so far are closed questions – where there’s a list of responses to choose from. But it can be useful to include open questions in your survey – where someone can answer in their own words.

This section will help you decide if open questions will suit your survey, and gives some examples.

More from Julie

Julie looks at what open questions to include and decides open questions 1, 2, and 5 (from our ‘Questions you can include’) will be the most useful for her survey. Here’s why:

  • Julie suspects that question 1, alongside her closed questions, will give her more detail on exactly what the centre’s impact is. She also hopes some responses will be good to include in any new bids for funding.
  • Julie thinks question 2 will help her pinpoint what’s having such a good impact, as well as what people don’t like, at the centre. This will show what the centre should do more of and less of to have an even more positive effect.
  • Julie hopes question 5 will confirm the centre is offering support that isn’t available elsewhere. For example, if people in the computer class say they could have gone to a class at their library instead, it may be better for the centre to offer a different service. 

    SEE ALL OF JULIE’S STORY ON ONE PAGE

1. Should you include open questions in your survey?

This table will help you decide whether you want to include any open questions in your survey.

Why include open questions?Why not include open questions?
People can answer however they want, so you can identify unexpected and important information.You need to know what you’re asking and why, and what you will do with the data. You may get some data that is not relevant for you.
They help to identify why something has changed, and therefore how you can improve what you doYou need to work out how you will analyse the data before you start. This means knowing what wellbeing is and what results you’re looking for, which takes time and calls for knowledge of wellbeing concepts. A model of wellbeing, like the Dynamic Model of Wellbeing, can help guide your analysis and make sure it’s accurate.
They may give insights into the whole service, and how wellbeing interacts with other results of the service.The data can be more time-consuming to analyse and difficult to present to different audiences.

Reread Section 4 about the ethical and practical things you need to consider when you ask your questions.

2. Some questions you can include

If you decide you want to include some open questions, here are some you may find useful:

QuestionWhy is this question useful?
Since you got involved with (X), what, if anything, has changed about how you feel about yourself and your life?This asks someone to describe the most important changes in their lives in their own words. So it may help you identify extra, unexpected things like increased motivation or confidence.
Why have things changed? What is it about (X) that has helped this happen?The ‘why’ here is the important bit. It allows you to understand what’s effective, and do more of it in the future.
Have these changes impacted anyone else (eg family members)? If so, who has it affected and how?It’s possible your organisation may affect people you don’t work with directly. For example, your work with a young person might reduce stress on their family.

This question can help you pick up on the wider impacts you’re having on wellbeing.
Since you got involved with (X), have any other things in your life helped or got in the way of where you want to get to? (eg children, supportive partner, poor health.) If so, please give details.This question provides important contextual information that can be useful for two reasons:

It can help you understand patterns in your wellbeing data.

Many of these wider contextual factors are beyond your control. But if something has helped or hindered your efforts, you may be able to do something about it.
What would have happened if you hadn’t been involved with (X)? (eg how would you feel about yourself? What would you be doing?)This question helps you understand your ‘added value’ by getting people to imagine how different their lives would be without your service.

Think about where you may need to ask questions more creatively. Have a look at Section 3 for more on how to measure wellbeing.

More from Julie

Julie looks at what open questions to include and decides open questions 1, 2, and 5 (from our ‘Questions you can include’) will be the most useful for her survey. Here’s why:

  • Julie suspects that question 1, alongside her closed questions, will give her more detail on exactly what the centre’s impact is. She also hopes some responses will be good to include in any new bids for funding.
  • Julie thinks question 2 will help her pinpoint what’s having such a good impact, as well as what people don’t like, at the centre. This will show what the centre should do more of and less of to have an even more positive effect.
  • Julie hopes question 5 will confirm the centre is offering support that isn’t available elsewhere. For example, if people in the computer class say they could have gone to a class at their library instead, it may be better for the centre to offer a different service. 

Ready to move on?