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How to Write Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions help people learn about each other, share knowledge and experiences in a meaningful, imaginative and entertaining manner. No one can predict what direction an answer might take because open-ended, divergent questions can:
- have more than one answer
- be answered in many ways
Close-ended questions (conversation stoppers) leave no openings for further discussion which easily allows a person to give one or two word responses. Closed-ended questions can shut down conversations before they start.
Examples of closed-ended questions:
Examples of open-ended questions:
Open-ended questions challenge and help develop thinking skills.
Provocative questions challenge the individual to exercise critical thought in order to extrapolate or formulate a possible outcome.
Thought-provoking questions often have several layers of conditions for a speaker to consider which may stimulate the limits of a person's public speaking development.
Each individual is unique in personal experiences, knowledge and capability. Open-ended conversation starter questions or statements acknowledge the diversity between individuals and encourage people to use creative thinking in response to a variety of issues.
Types of Provocative Open-Ended Questions
Prediction Makers Bring out the inner crystal ball.
- What do you think will happen if...?
- What do you think will happen if (__________) continues to happen?
- What do you think would happen if…?
Thought Stretchers - Challenge stereotypical thought examine cause and effect.
- What would happen if …?
- What would the world be like without (_______________)? How would we cope?
Consideration of Consequences – And the walls came tumbling down...because?
- What could happen if you…?
- What would happen if you always fed your pets outside?
Assessment of Feelings - Emotional Impact of discovering your ex won the Lotto.
- How would you feel if...?
- How did this make you feel?
- How would you feel if (_______________) happened to you? What do you think other people would feel?
Comparison of Similarities vs Differences – How could differences and similarities be of benefit and why do people toss ice cubes in trash cans anyway)?
How do these differ?
- How are they the same?
- What makes some colors seem to go together while other color combinations clash?
- What do color-blind (chromosome-impaired) people see?
Application of Knowledge – How you apply your knowledge to solve problem.
- How would you…?
- What steps would you take to...?
- Show us how you… ?
- What could you do differently…?
- How do you feel about...?
- How would you fix a leaky...?
- What made you decide to buy...? How did this purchase make you feel?
- What could you do instead?
A good place to start when thinking up good open-ended queries is to use the tried and true 5-W's of journalism:
By Pat Kelley 9-2018