Criminal Justice

Open- and Closed-Ended Survey Questions

Competencies Addressed in This Discussion

  • Competency 2: Articulate a problem statement appropriate for examination using criminal justice research methods.
  • Competency 4: Use a common research method of criminal justice practitioners to examine the problem statement.


As surveys are among the most popular forms of research published in criminology, it is valuable to explore the quality of surveys as a research method. How survey questions are drafted can have a great impact on the quality and accuracy of your findings. Open-ended questions do not enforce explicit response options, whereas fixed-choice questions only allow for a list exhaustive and mutually exclusive responses. It is important to write clear and meaningful questions and avoid confusing phrasing or vagueness. Researchers should also avoid negatives and double-negatives, double-barreled questions, and favoring agreement or disagreement for clarity’s sake. Certain trade-offs and compromises must often be made between research goals, such as achieving measurement reliability and validity, generalizability, and cost-effectiveness including the decision to use open- or closed-ended questions.

In this discussion, you will explore the trade-off of whether to use open- or closed-ended questions in survey research. For this discussion, address the following in your main post:

  1. Articulate a crime-related problem statement that is appropriate for a survey of college students based on your desired criminal justice career path.
  2. Develop at least one hypothesis and several variables related to your problem statement.
  3. Draft five closed-ended questions that measure these variables and five open-ended questions that you think will measure the same variables as the closed-ended questions.
  4. Examine the effectiveness of responses that could be collected from each type of question based on the question format and phrasing.

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