Some Methodological Uses of Responses to Open Questions and Other Verbatim Comments in Quantitative Surveys

Eleanor Singer, Mick P. Couper


The use of open-ended questions in survey research has a very long history. In this paper, building on the work of Paul F. Lazarsfeld and Howard Schuman, we review the methodological uses of open-ended questions and verbatim responses in surveys. We draw on prior research, our own and that of others, to argue for increasing the use of open-ended questions in quantitative surveys. The addition of open-ended questions – and the capture and analysis of respondents’ verbatim responses to other types of questions – may yield important insights, not only into respondents’ substantive answers, but also into how they understand the questions we ask and arrive at an answer. Adding a limited number of such questions to computerized surveys, whether self- or interviewer-administered, is neither expensive nor time-consuming, and in our experience respondents are quite willing and able to answer such questions.


open questions; textual analysis; verbatim comments

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Copyright (c) 2017 Eleanor Singer, Mick P. Couper

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