Call for Papers: Special Issue of methods, data, analyses

The Use of Open-Ended Questions in Surveys

Guest Editors: Cornelia Neuert (GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences), Katharina Meitinger (Utrecht University), Dorothée Behr (GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences) & Matthias Schonlau (University of Waterloo)

The proportion of open-ended questions administered in scientific surveys has declined significantly since the beginnings of survey research. The main reasons for this decline were that the collection and, in particular, the analysis of open-ended questions were considered to be very laborious compared to the gain in information. In recent years, the value of open-ended questions has been rediscovered in survey research as there are various research situations where open-ended question can provide crucial information that closed-ended questions cannot deliver, e.g. understanding reasons for reluctance or refusal, testing methodological theories and hypotheses, evaluating the comprehensibility and validity of questions or assessing the comparability of survey questions across different languages or cultural contexts.

Furthermore, major technological innovations have been introduced that can tackle some of the challenges associated with open-ended questions. First and foremost, the possibility to collect data on web surveys has eliminated the need to transcribe the responses. Moreover, new technological innovations help to automatically transcribe spoken language into textual responses. Additionally, manual coding has been facilitated through novel technologies and software solutions that help to analyze large amounts of data (more or less) automatically. The full potential of these technological innovations for open-ended questions has not yet been explored.

The goal of this mda special issue is to present and promote cutting-edge uses of open-ended questions and their applications relevant for achieving high-quality data. We invite submissions in the following areas:

  • New approaches of asking open-ended questions, e.g. for pretesting purposes or for assessing the comparability of cross-cultural survey data; for investigating the performance of open-ended questions in different survey modes or for testing both substantive as well as methodological hypotheses, as well as novel ways of supplementing quantitative data with open-ended question formats.
  • Innovations in analyses techniques and data collection, such as technical advancements in computational text analysis, e.g. automatic coding of verbal answers to open-ended questions; answering open-ended questions via video capture or voice recording.
  • On the applied side, we encourage submissions showing the potential of open-ended questions to aid survey research (e.g. open-ended questions as indicators of response quality in survey interviews, the effect of open-questions on following closed-ended questions).
  • Research on the most appropriate design of open-ended questions in terms of data quality (in different survey modes), including concrete recommendations.


However, the list of topics is not exclusive.


Submission procedure and timeline

If you are interested in submitting a manuscript to the mda special issue on “The Use of Open-Ended Questions in Surveys”, please upload your manuscript at following the guidelines of the mda until February15, 2020. Guidelines for manuscript preparation can be found in the information for authors:

When submitting the manuscript, please indicate in the field “Comments for the Editor” that this is a manuscript for the Special Issue on “The Use of Open-Ended Questions in Surveys”.


Upon submission, manuscripts will be peer-reviewed in accordance with standard journal practice.  

Accepted papers will be published Online First before print. The printed special issue will appear in January 2021. Queries about this special issue should be directed to Cornelia Neuert at

The detailed time schedule is as follows:

_ Deadline for manuscript submission: February 15, 2020

_ Decision on the full papers: June 1, 2020

_ Deadline for the submission of revised manuscripts: September 1, 2020

_ Final decision: November 1, 2020

_Online first publications: September-December 2020

_ Publication of the Special Issue: January 2021