What is a Likert Scale?
The Likert Scale is a survey mechanism in which the user is asked to indicate their level of agreement or disagreement with a statement or subject. It was created by Rensis Likert (pronounced LIK-art ). Mr. Likert was born in 1903 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His career was largely dedicated to the topics of management, conflict, and applications of behavioral research. Likert’s contributions in business management helped managers organize their subordinates more effectively.
Likert founded the theory of participative management, which was used to engage employees in the workplace and ultimately allow them to enjoy their job more. Likert’s contributions in psychometrics have led to the forming and shaping of social and organizational psychology.
During the 1930s he developed and refined the Likert scale as part of his gained his PhD from Columbia University and serving as Director of Research at the Life Insurance Agency Management Association in Hartford, Connecticut..
The difference between a Likert scale and other types of scales is that in other types of scales the indicator range are usually placed between weakest to strongest with no neutral. These are often used for rating purposes. For example “Please rate your satisfaction with a number between 1 and 10, where 1 is ‘not at all’ to 10 being ‘very satisfied’” whereas the Likert scale is 5 to 7 points with the neutral indicator in the center. Numerically,, the scale can be represented in the following way: +2, +1, 0, +1, +2. The 5 options must have a text label further in combination further clarifying the selection to the survey taker. The Likert scale is popular because it is especially effective at capturing attitudinal responses and can be reported or represented in a quantitative way.
Survey designers are under a lot of pressure to keep surveys short in order to get higher completion rates. Questions presented utilizing the Likert scale format can capture fairly complex emotional responses without being too cognitively taxing on the respondent. Especially when used over a series of questions that can be used together to provide a clear picture of a key finding. They also take less time and resources to interpret, code and analyse than open ended questions.
3 Likert Scale Best Practices
- Well-designed Likert items exhibit both “symmetry” and “balance”. Symmetry means that they contain equal numbers of positive and negative positions whose respective distances apart are bilaterally symmetric about the “neutral”/zero value (whether or not that value is presented as a candidate). Balance means that the distance between each candidate value is the same, allowing for quantitative comparisons
- Pay careful attention to the descriptive labels and response format. It is not easy to do, or straight forward, because it first requires some semantic consideration and close attention to word and term meanings, and the contexts in which the word or term are used. Avoid extreme language such as “hate”, “extremely disagree” in order to avoid extreme response bias.
- Keep your questions short and clear. Most importantly, frame straightforward questions and avoid response bias. Respondents are less likely to answer if a question is too long or if they do not understand the question. Break down complex concepts into multiple connected questions to offer better clarity to the respondents. Limiting the answers for these connected questions to a simple measurable options makes responding and analysis easier.
Top image/ Featured image: “How Likely” animated gif by Shawn Torres
Shawn is an Information Technology manager in Washington D.C. and a graduate student at Quinnipiac University pursuing his masters in Interactive Media and Communications.
Resources and references:
Carifio, james and Perla, Rocco J.. “Ten Common Misunderstandings, Misconceptions, Persistent Myths and Urban Legends about Likert Scales and Likert Response Formats and their Antidotes” Journal of Social Sciences 3 (3): 106-116, 2007 https://thescipub.com/PDF/jssp.2007.106.116.pdf
Likert scale – Wikipedia. (2019, February 02). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Likert_scale
Rensis Likert – Wikipedia. (2019, February 16). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rensis_Likert
Likert Scale Questions, Survey and Examples | QuestionPro. (2019, February 01). Retrieved from https://www.questionpro.com/article/likert-scale-survey-questions.html
Likert Scale: What It Is & How to Use It | SurveyMonkey. (2019, February 17). Retrieved from https://www.surveymonkey.com/mp/likert-scale
Likert Question Best Practices – Datagame. (2016, June 29). Retrieved from https://datagame.io/likert-question-best-practices
Demystifying Scales in Social Science Research. (2019, February 17). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/scales-used-in-social-science-research-3026542
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