Everything You Need to Know About the Likert Scale
Measuring subjective experiences such as happiness and satisfaction can be a challenging task, especially in the context of market research.
How do we accurately gauge the level of satisfaction that a person feels towards a particular subject?
The Likert scale was developed in the 1930s to address this very problem.
In this article, we'll explore everything you need to know about the Likert scale and how it can be used to collect meaningful data in market research.
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What is a Likert scale?
Named after the renowned organizational psychologist Rensis Likert, the Likert scale was first introduced in 1930.
This scale provides an objective way to quantify attitudes and feelings, as well as the degree of consensus on certain subjects or objects.
Some researchers refer to the Likert scale as a satisfaction scale, as it is commonly used to measure satisfaction levels on a given topic.
How is it defined?
A Likert scale is an ordered scale that allows respondents to select an option that aligns with their opinion.
This scale is commonly used in market research to obtain a valuation value and quantify intangible or abstract concepts.
In many ways, it's similar to a multiple-choice question (MC), but with the key difference that it restricts responses to a single set of logical values.
For instance, a respondent might be asked to indicate their level of satisfaction on a scale ranging from "not at all satisfied" to "very satisfied."
Furthermore, when using a Likert scale, respondents are required to make specific choices based on whether they "agree" or "disagree" with a particular statement, rather than simply answering "yes" or "no.
Why using a Likert scale?
The Likert scale is a popular tool for market research due to its reliability in measuring opinions, perceptions, and behaviors objectively.
It is widely used by researchers to understand opinions and views about a brand, product, target market, employee satisfaction, and more.
For instance, if you want to evaluate the success of a recent work-from-home policy, you can easily create an HR questionnaire using the Likert scale to assess employee satisfaction.
Some of the advantages of using the Likert scale include:
Easy-to-understand questions that require no additional guidance
Raw answers that offer precise data and contribute to faster problem understanding and deeper insights into underlying reasons
Easy to create and set up
Easy analysis of quantitative data, making it easier to understand and analyze the results
Comprehensive approach that allows collection of various opinions on topics that are difficult to measure, such as customer feelings and perceptions
Clear range of opinions offered to respondents, making it easy for them to select one option per question
Overall, the Likert scale is a versatile and valuable tool for market research, enabling the collection of quantitative data and providing deeper insights into opinions and attitudes towards a particular subject.
Use cases for Likert scales
The Likert scale is most suitable for evaluating individual attitudes and opinions on a particular subject.
However, it is not appropriate for assessing attributes like age or gender.
Here are some of the areas where the scale can be used to obtain more precise information:
- Evaluating customer feedback on new products
- Measuring employee satisfaction levels
- Assessing customer satisfaction levels
- Collecting feedback on events
- Studying target markets
- Conducting public health assessments
- Evaluating partnerships
- Conducting needs assessments linked to guidelines
In general, these are the variables that can be measured using the Likert scale:
How to create a Likert scale step by step
Create a Likert scale question is super easy, follow these steps:
Start with a declarative statement that measures a certain attitude or opinion instead of asking a direct question, e.g. "I am satisfied with the equipment provided to me to work from home".
Create a series of response categories that are logically distributed along a scale.
For example, you could use a five-point scale ranging from "Strongly Disagree" to "Strongly Agree" or a seven-point scale ranging from "Very Dissatisfied" to "Very Satisfied".
Assign a numeric value to each option in the response categories.
The values usually range from 1 to 5, 1 to 7, or some other range, depending on the number of response categories and the scale used.
Make sure the response categories are mutually exclusive and cover the entire range of possible responses.
This means that each response category should be distinct and that there should be no overlap between them.
Test your Likert scale with a pilot study to ensure that it is effective in measuring the intended attitude or opinion.
This can help you identify any issues with the scale and make any necessary adjustments before using it in a larger study or survey.
What types of Likert scales can you create for your own research?
A popular variation of the traditional Likert scale is known as the "Likert-type scale".
Like the traditional Likert scale, Likert-type scales have an ordered set of response categories with a balanced number of positive and negative options. However, there are a few key differences:
Likert-type scales can have labels for each answer option, or only for the final categories (also known as anchor categories).
Likert-type scales do not use the traditional spectrum of "Strongly disagree" to "Strongly agree" responses.
Instead, they use other categories of ordered responses to measure different variables, such as:
Frequency (e.g. Never, Sometimes, Often, Always)
Intensity (e.g. Mild, Moderate, Severe)
Quantity (e.g. Not at all, A little, A lot)
There are other types of Likert-type scales, such as the Semantic Differential Scale, which use bipolar adjectives (such as "good" vs. "bad" or "happy" vs. "sad") to measure attitudes or opinions.
When creating a Likert-type scale, it is important to carefully consider the response options and labels to ensure they accurately measure the variable of interest.
Even or Odd Likert scales?
The number of answer options in a Likert scale can vary from five to nine, with more options generally leading to more precise results.
However, it's important to choose the right number of options depending on the situation.
Here's a list of pros and cons for both, even and odd scales, to help you choose which one is best for your use case.
Even Likert scale
|It eliminates the chance of misinterpreting, by eliminating the neutral option||Respondents may get frustrated as they are not given the choice to pick a neutral option|
|Called "forced choice", as forces respondents to take a side.|
|Respondents can be more selective and thoughtful|
Odd Likert scale
|Gives respondents the chance to pick also a neutral statement and answer honestly||Gives respondents an easy way out (i.e. the midpoint)|
Appropriate when tackling sensitive topic as it provides a midpoint
|The midpoint could be misinterpreted, leading to errors and confusions|
What is the best type of Likert scale to use?
Choosing the best type of Likert scale can be a challenging task, as each has its pros and cons.
However, there are some things you should keep in mind to make the best decision:
Remember the main objective of the survey: the choice of the scale should align with the research questions and what you want to measure.
Consider the subject of the survey: if the subject is not controversial, you can use an even scale without a neutral point. However, if the topic is more sensitive, it's better to use an odd scale that includes a midpoint.
Know your respondents: it's important to understand your target audience and determine whether they prefer having a neutral response option or not.
In any case, keep in mind that the Likert scale should never be used to elicit answers or force respondents to form an opinion.
A well-structured survey always starts with a clear objective and aims to obtain honest and meaningful responses.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the Likert scale?
The Likert scale has its advantages and disadvantages that every researcher should keep in mind before creating a survey.
Here are the benefits and drawbacks of using a Likert scale.
- Provides a quantifiable measure of attitudes and opinions
- Ease of response for participants
- Easy to code and analyze answers
- Fast and efficient method for data collection
- Inexpensive compared to other methods of data collection
- The scale is one-dimensional and only provides a limited number of options, which may not be equally spaced
- It may not capture the complexity of people's attitudes and opinions
- There is a risk of response bias and order effect
- Respondents may avoid choosing the extreme options on the scale, leading to less accurate results.
Best Practices when creating Likert Scales
Use wide scales: It is recommended to use a Likert scale with as wide a range as possible. Responses can always be grouped later for analysis.
Choose a scale: The scale should have at least two extreme positions and an intermediate response option that serves as a graduation between them.
Be specific: Questions should be clear and specific to avoid confusion. The more precise the question, the more valuable the data will be.
- Limit options: Keep in mind that using too many options can result in respondents choosing an option randomly, leading to inaccurate data. We recommend using around or fewer than 7 options on your Likert scale.
Avoid generalization: Instead of asking general questions such as "Do you like our products?", ask more specific questions such as "Are you satisfied with the quality of our products?" or "Do you think our products are good value for money?"
Cover all bases: The Likert scale should cover the full range of answers, including a midpoint. If the answers only range from "Extremely satisfied" to "Fairly satisfied," respondents who are not satisfied will not know which answer to choose, resulting in skewed results.
Use labels instead of numbers: Numbered scales, such as 1 to 5, can be confusing and lead to inaccurate data. It is best to indicate the scale options using words, e.g. extremely satisfied.
- Clear and concise labels: Make sure the labels are clear and concise.
Always indicate the midpoint: The midpoint should always be indicated as provides good indications to respondents when choosing their reply.
Provide balanced response options: Response options should be balanced to avoid bias.
In conclusion, the Likert scale remains a popular and effective tool for measuring people's attitudes and satisfaction levels. By providing a quantifiable and easily understandable system of responses, Likert scales offer a fast and cost-effective way to gather valuable data.
However, it is important to recognize the potential downsides of using these scales and take steps to mitigate them.
By following the guidelines provided in this article, researchers can create well-structured Likert scale surveys that yield accurate and meaningful results.
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