Why should open-ended questions be optional? I would like to make open-ended questions mandatory for my respondents.

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  • There are two primary reasons that qualitative (open-ended) questions should not be made mandatory unless absolutely necessary:

    1. Respondent burden

    Using a mix of open-ended questions can provide some of the 'why' (context) between pre-determined rating questions. However, open-ended questions require more effort and time to respond, significantly adding the length of a survey interview compared to a closed-ended ratings question.

    Although open-ended responses add context to the survey results and enable respondents to express their feedback in their own words, they should never be mandatory as some respondents will quit the survey rather than be
    forced to respond.

    Open-ended questions should almost always be set to 'optional' or 'not mandatory' when designing a questionnaire that is respectful of your respondents and to prevent survey fatigue. It is more important for the respondent to complete the survey.

    2. Forcing inaccurate or noise responses

    The responses to open-ended questions can be very useful, often yielding quotable material. The drawback to open-ended questions is that the responses are more difficult to catalogue and interpret.

    By making an open-ended question mandatory, you will force many respondents to either type in gibberish or common responses such as 'n/a', 'none', 'no', etc. because they do not want to respond. This makes the review and analysis of the open-ended responses very difficult.

    Additionally, each one of these types of 'noise' responses is an affirmation that the respondent did not appreciate being forced to input a response. This adds to respondent burden and may irritate a large portion of the respondents. The questionnaire design should be respectful of the respondents' time and willingness to respond
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