Open-Ended v. Close-Ended Questions

Open-Ended v. Close-Ended Questions

Inquiry for historical reasoning should consist of open-ended questions instead of closed-ended questions. As a reminder, closed-ended questions can be answered with a single word. Closed-ended questions start with a question word, such as “does,” “did,” “was,” or “are.” On the other hand, open-ended questions start with “how” to explain a process, steps, or key events; “to what extent” to quantify the importance; or, “why” to explain the motives, reasons, or causes. Below are examples for you to review.

Examples of Close-Ended Questions

What does it look like?
  • Does the president of the United States have the constitutional right to grant pardons?
  • Did the US win the War of 1812?
  • Was Thomas Jefferson present at the Continental Congress?

Examples of Open-Ended Questions

What does it look like?
  • How was the Spanish–American War in 1898 a turning point in United States foreign policy?.
  • To what extent did Truman’s policy of containment after WWII become a turning point in
    United States foreign policy?
  • Why was George Washington reluctant to accept the presidency, considering his retirement in 1783 as commander in chief of the Continental Army?