How to ask open-ended questions? Crucial tips and examples

This article explains open-ended questions definition, why you need to ask them, how to ask open-ended questions, and real-world examples to get you started.


Ever feel like you’re pulling teeth in conversations with clients or colleagues? You ask a question, hoping to spark a lively discussion, but all you get is a one-word answer and an awkward silence. The struggle is real.

But what if I told you that you could turn those unproductive chats into engaging exchanges that yield valuable insights with open-ended questions?

This article explains open-ended questions definition, why you need to ask them, how to ask open-ended questions, and some examples to get you started.

Why use open-ended questions?

Open-ended questions are questions that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”

Instead, they encourage a more thoughtful and detailed response. Using open-ended questions in a survey can really jazz up your data collection game.

These questions give your respondents the chance to express themselves freely. The freedom encourages them to share insights, ideas, and even stories that you might not have thought to ask about.

These types of questions are super valuable when you’re exploring new topics or trying to understand complex issues. They allow for flexibility and depth with which you uncover hidden gems of insight that you might have missed with closed-ended questions.

And let’s not forget the human touch. When people see an open-ended question, it’s like you’re saying, “Hey, I really want to hear what you have to say.”

It shows that you value their input and are genuinely interested in their perspective, leading them to provide answers with authenticity and not just out of compliance.

How to ask open-ended questions: The secret sauce

How to ask open-ended questions

So, how do you ask open-ended questions effectively?

Let’s dive deeper into some expert tips that describe how to ask open-ended questions.

1. Build the momentum with “How” or “What”:

Begin with “How” or “What” questions to encourage respondents to provide detailed, thoughtful responses.

These interrogatives prompt individuals to share their experiences, opinions, or feelings in their own words, rather than limiting them to a simple “yes” or “no.”

For instance, instead of asking, “Did you enjoy the event?” you could inquire, “What aspects of the event did you find most enjoyable?”

This approach invites participants to express themselves freely and provides richer qualitative data.

2. Be specific, but not leading:

While it’s essential to provide some direction with your questions, be careful not to lead respondents toward a particular answer.

Being specific in your questioning helps guide the conversation, but avoid phrasing that may influence the participant’s response.

For instance, instead of asking, “Do you think the service was excellent?” opt for a neutral approach like, “How would you describe your experience with the service?”

This will allow individuals to share their perspectives without feeling pressured to conform to a predefined opinion.

3. Encourage elaboration:

To extract valuable insights, let your respondents answer open-ended questions and then follow up on their previous answers.

When someone provides a response, probe further to encourage them to expand on their thoughts or experiences.

Learn how to ask open-ended questions that foster a thorough exploration of the topic and bring forward hidden layers of information.

For example, if a survey participant mentions enjoying a restaurant, you could ask what specific aspects they appreciated or if they have any memorable anecdotes to share.

Let’s move on to some examples and tips for open-ended questions.

Open-ended questions examples

Here are some real-world examples so you can get a better idea of how to ask open-ended questions.

Team meetings

Open-ended questions encourage participation, foster discussion, and promote critical thinking among team members.

Here are some open-ended questions to ask your team.

  1. What progress have we made since our last meeting?
  2. How can we improve our processes to enhance efficiency and productivity?
  3. What are your thoughts on the current project timeline, and do you foresee any potential roadblocks?
  4. What additional resources or support do you need to achieve your objectives?
  5. In what ways can we better collaborate as a team to achieve our goals?

Customer feedback

Open-ended questions in customer feedback surveys solicit detailed insights and suggestions from customers.

They help businesses understand their customer’s needs and preferences to improve products or services.

  1. What do you like most about our product/service, and why?
  2. Can you share an experience where our product/service fell short of your expectations?
  3. What improvements would you like to see in future versions of our product/service?
  4. How likely are you to recommend our product/service to others, and what factors influenced your rating?

Employee engagement surveys

Open-ended questions in employee engagement surveys allow employees to express their opinions, concerns, and suggestions.

This way, organizations can identify areas for improvement and foster a positive work environment.

  1. What aspects of your job do you find most rewarding, and why?
  2. How would you describe the company culture, and what changes, if any, would you like to see?
  3. What barriers, if any, do you encounter that hinder your productivity or job satisfaction?
  4. What initiatives would you like to see implemented to support employee well-being and professional development?


Open-ended questions in problem-solving scenarios encourage critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration that produce innovative solutions.

  1. What do you think is the root cause of the problem we’re facing?
  2. What are some potential solutions we haven’t considered yet?
  3. How did you resolve any similar challenges in the past? (If any)
  4. What resources or expertise do we need to effectively address this problem?


Research involves gathering information, analyzing data, and drawing conclusions to inform decision-making or address specific questions. Open-ended questions in research contexts facilitate exploration and deeper understanding of complex topics.

  1. What are the key objectives or questions we hope to answer through this research?
  2. What existing knowledge or literature can we draw upon to inform our research?
  3. What methodologies or approaches do you think would be most effective in collecting relevant data?

5 Benefits of open-ended questions

Benefits of open-ended questions

Here are some advantages of open-ended questions:

1. Encourage deep reflection

Open-ended questions prompt respondents to think critically and reflect on their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

By inviting individuals to express themselves in their own words, these questions encourage deeper introspection and provide better response quality.

2. Capture diverse perspectives

One of the perks of open-ended questions is their ability to capture a wide range of perspectives. Rather than limiting respondents to predefined options, open-ended questions allow individuals to share their unique viewpoints, insights, and experiences.

The diversity of perspectives enriches your data and provides a more comprehensive understanding of the topic at hand.

3. Collect unanticipated insights

Open-ended questions have a knack for revealing unexpected insights and revelations.

By giving respondents the freedom to express themselves without constraints, these questions can reveal new ideas, opinions, and experiences that may not have been considered otherwise.

This element of surprise leads to valuable discoveries and deeper understanding.

4. Foster engagement and participation

When respondents see across open-ended questions, it signals that their input is valued and their voices are heard.

This sense of validation and appreciation can increase engagement and participation in the surveys you create, as individuals feel motivated to share their thoughts and contribute to the conversation.

Plus, these questions can make surveys feel less like a chore and more like a meaningful exchange that leads to higher response rates and richer data.

5. Adapt to dynamic conversations

Open-ended questions are flexible and adaptable, making them suitable for a variety of situations and contexts.

Whether you’re exploring new topics, delving into complex issues, or seeking detailed feedback, open-ended questions can accommodate the dynamic nature of conversation.

The versatility allows you to tailor your questions to suit the specific needs and objectives of your survey, all while ensuring that you gather the most relevant and valuable information possible.

Open-ended vs. Close-ended questions

Closed-ended questions give respondents a list of options to choose from, making it easy to gather specific, standardized data.

For example, “What’s your favorite color: Red, Blue, or Green?” It’s straightforward, no-nonsense, and great for collecting quantitative data fast.

Such questions are perfect for things like demographics, preferences, or simple opinions.

On the flip side, open-ended questions invite respondents to share their thoughts and feelings in their own words.

For instance, “How would you describe your ideal vacation?” It’s an open-ended question that allows for deeper insights and qualitative data.

The main difference between open questions vs closed questions lies in their usage.

Let’s say you’re designing a survey about customer satisfaction for a restaurant. You might use closed-ended questions to ask about things like food quality or service speed.

But if you want to know why someone keeps coming back or what they’d love to see on the menu, open-ended questions are your best bet.

A combination of open questions and closed questions helps you understand the complete picture of the topic at hand.

Create engaging open-ended questions surveys in minutes!

Learning how to ask open-ended questions is a game-changer for businesses, but it takes practice and following the right approach.

With the tips and examples provided in this article, you’re well on your way to becoming a master interrogator – in the best sense of the word, of course!

Now, if you’re all set to create this type of question, consider using Formaloo to make the process hassle-free. Formaloo is a user-friendly online form builder and survey maker that can help you design engaging open-ended surveys in minutes.

Sign up for free to try out Formaloo’s super easy interface and cutting-edge features.

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How to ask open-ended questions? Crucial tips and examples