mind map prioritiesHow to Write Open-Ended Questions

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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:

  • What is your favorite radio station?
  • Where did you go on vacation?
  • How was the concert?

Examples of open-ended questions:

  • Why do you enjoy your radio station's genre of music?
  • What sights did you see on your vacation?
  • Tell me all about the concert.

Open-ended questions challenge and help develop thinking skills.what surpriseth

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 images these differ?

all color

  • 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… ?

Evaluation -

  • 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:


  • Who was involved?
  • Who inspires you...?
  • Who are you?
  • Who depends on you?
  • Who do you dream about?
  • Who do you love and what are you doing about it?
  • Who do you sometimes compare yourself to?
  • Who do you trust and why?
  • Who has had the greatest impact on your life?
  • Who impresses you?
  • Who makes you feel good about yourself?
  • Who or what is the greatest enemy of mankind?
  • Who owns the Earth
  • Who would you like to please the most?
  • Whose life have you had the greatest impact on?


  • Where did it take place?
  • Where do you imagine yourself living ten years from now?
  • Where were you during the most terrifying moment of your life?
  • Where were you the last time you lost your temper? And why?
  • Where do you find inspiration?
  • Where do you find peace?
  • Where do you spend most of your waking time?
  • Where else would you like to live? Why?


  • What happens when...?
  • What makes you, you?
  • What can you do today that you could not a year ago?
  • What confuses you?
  • What could civilization do without?
  • What did you want to be when you grew up?
  • What you do differently than most people?
  • What do you do with the majority of your money?
  • What do you have that you cannot live without?
  • What do you have to lose?
  • What do you have the most trouble visualizing?
  • What do you wish you had done differently?
  • What gives your life meaning?
  • What good comes from suffering?
  • Which activities make you lose track of time?
  • Which came first: the chicken or the egg?
  • Which is worse, failing or never trying?
  • What habit do you hate doing and why can't you stop?


  • Why did (____________) happen?
  • Why are manners important?
  • Why are you, you?
  • Why do you matter?
  • Why do you get up in the morning?
  • Why have a pet?
  • Why do people need vacations?
  • Why do you hesitate to try something new?
  • Why do people lie?
  • Why should people vote?
  • Why should I...?
  • Why do I feel uncomfortable in new situations?
  • Why do I fear public speaking?
  • Why can't I...?
  • Why do people do stupid things?


  • When did (____________) take place?
  • When is your joy at its peak?
  • When is lying a good idea?
  • When did you first realize that life is short?
  • When did you not speak up when you should have?
  • When do you feel most like yourself?
  • When have you been stereotyped?
  • When is lying a good idea?
  • When was your first impression of someone totally wrong?
  • When do good manners matter the most?

How (sometimes)

  • How did (____________) happen?
  • How would you spend your ideal day?
  • How would you describe yourself in one sentence?
  • In 3 words, how would you describe your future?
  • How do you approach buying a new car?
  • How will today matter five years from now?
  • Has an event caused you to change your life?
  • How do you do to relieve stress?
  • How do you spend your money?
  • How do you spend your free time?
  • How or has fear of failure stopped you from doing something?
  • How or has your greatest fear ever come true?

By Pat Kelley 9-2018