The Amazing Likert Scale

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The Likert scale is something that I’m sure you have definitely come across and even worked with. You probably just didn’t know that’s what it’s called.

The Likert scale was named after its creator Rensis Likert. He was a professor at Michigan University and also a great psychologist. While he was working on surveys and questionnaires, he came to a realization. That realization is the reason why the Likert scale exists today.

Well, think about this. If someone gives you a slice of cake asks you how much you like it, how do you answer it? If the only options you’re given are “Love it” or “Hate”, are you still able to accurately give your response to the person who asked you the question? Most probably not. We humans are very different from one another and our preferences vary a lot from one another. This two answer option is called a binary scale. Sometimes, a simple binary scale “Yes” or “No” is not enough to give a proper response.

So Rensis Likert thought “Why can’t there be more options?”. And that’s exactly what he did. He introduced more responses to the system. So now, instead of just “Love it” or “Hate it”, we have an extra “Neutral” in the middle for anyone who doesn’t necessarily love it or hate it. This three-option system is called a ‘Three-Point’ Likert scale. There is also the ‘Five-Point’ Likert scale and it goes to seven or sometimes even nine.

The Point System

The number of points in the Likert Scale depends heavily on how accurate you need the responses to be. A ‘Five-Point Likert Scale’ has more responses between each of them. For example, if I want to know how much you liked the slice of cake, I’d give the following options to choose from

1. Love it

2. Like it

3. Neutral

4. Dislike it

5. Hate it

This way, the answer I get from you would be a lot more accurate than the ‘Three-Point’ Likert Scale. If you chose ‘neutral’ in the ‘Five-Point’ Likert Scale, I can safely conclude that you chose it knowing that ‘Like it’ and ‘Dislike it’ existed. This means that you didn’t choose that option because you didn’t have a choice, but because you definitely neither liked it nor disliked it.

How To Make A Good Likert Scale

A good Likert Scale will have one very important thing – equal distance. What I mean by this is equal distance between the options to choose from. Using the ‘Five-Point’ Likert scale example we used previously, note how the different responses are equal “mental” distance from each other. ‘Neutral’, in our minds is right in the middle between ‘Love it’ and ‘Hate it’.  ‘Like it’, in our minds is right in the middle of ‘Love it’ and ‘Neutral’. So mirroring this mental positioning onto your Likert Scale is very important when it comes to making a good one.

How To Make The Questions

If you’re planning on making Likert scale survey questions, there are a few things to take note of.

1. Make sure that all the questions inside the survey are narrowed down to the exact topic that you want to research on. The more related the questions are to the research topic, the more accurate your results will be.

2. Use very obvious words for your options. Try not to use too many adjectives that could have double meanings. For instance, if “pretty much” was an option, the reader would feel slightly confused and could affect the accuracy of their response. Instead, use words like “very” or “extremely” for the extremes and “neutral” or “moderate” for the middle options.

3. Decide if your survey answers are going to be unipolar or bipolar. Unipolar means the scale goes from zero to maximum. For example, a question like “How well can you drive?” can be given the options zero (where you can’t drive at all) all the way to 10 (where you’re an extremely good driver). The example where we discussed the slice of cake is a bipolar scale, where the answers go to two extremes instead of  zero to maximum (Love vs Hate) 

Summary

Likert Scales are used almost EVERYWHERE nowadays. Surveys, questionnaires, and literally anywhere that you need to get people’s responses about anything. You may use any number of points depending on the accuracy that you’re aiming to achieve. Make sure you space out your options evenly to get a good “distance” and like I mentioned previously, if you want to make your Likert Scale give you accurate results, you will need to increase the points in your Likert Scale.

I hope you found this article helpful. If you’re creating a Likert Scale for your own research purposes or even a school assignment, make sure to refer back to this! I’m sure it will help you loads.

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