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Scales, Open-Ended

Open-ended scales are data collection instruments in which no predefined options or categories are included for participant selection. In such instances, participants supply their own responses to each open-ended scale item. Communication researchers often use open-ended scales as an initial data collection tool to learn more about participants’ experiences and opinions regarding a specific subject of study. This entry provides a definition of open-ended scales, discusses the benefits and challenges associated with this type of measurement, and provides examples of different types of open-ended scale items.


An open-ended scale consists of items in which no fixed answer is provided. Rather, participants are able to provide a response that is undirected. For example, participants in an open-ended survey centered on fear of public speaking may be asked ...

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