Effect of using different labels for the scales in a web survey

Melanie Revilla

Introduction

There are two main kinds of question: closed questions, i.e. questions in which it is allowed to answer only through a closed series of alternatives, and open questions, i.e. questions for which the respondents can answer whatever they want and do not have to choose their answer from a list of alternatives. The advantages and disadvantages of both open and closed response formats have been discussed already: in 1944 by Lazarsfeld and, later, by many others (e.g. Schuman & Presser 1981; Converse 1984; Krosnick & Schuman 1988; Schwarz & Hippler 1991). In practice, the open question format is more complicated to use for quantitative research since questions need first to be coded in such a way that the answers can be analysed. This is time consuming and has a cost. Therefore, most survey research uses closed questions.