Why use a Likert Scale?

In most Likert scales, rather than choosing between a yes or a no, there are specific choices based on the degree of "agreeing" or "disagreeing" to a certain question in some manner.

Likert scales are so common now that they are almost used interchangeably with the term "rating scales." You may have come across Likert scale questions without realizing they had a specific name.

Here's an example of a commonly used Likert Scale:

How satisfied are you with the service at Smith Auto? 

Scaling your survey responses using a Likert scale Scaling your survey responses using a Likert scale

Five- and Seven-point Likert Scales

Likert scales are generally categorized into five- or seven-point ones, depending upon how many options respondents can choose from.

Typically, any Likert scale includes a middle point, which is usually a moderate opinion. This is something of a neutral option like "Depends on the situation" or "Do not agree or disagree" and holds true for all Likert scale questions.

Let's look at two different kinds of Likert scales

Unipolar or Five-point Likert Scale

Unipolar Likert scales give respondents five options to choose from. Also known as the five-point scale, this is a more commonly used Likert scale.

Unipolar scales allow users to focus on the absence or presence of a single characteristic. In this sense, unipolar scales generate more clear and inclined responses. It is usually organized on a five-point or an A-E format.

If you are dealing with an idea or a construct that ranges from nothing to a maximum amount-for example, 'effectiveness'- then you should think of a unipolar scale or the five-point scale to go with it.

When it does not make sense to 'measure' negative effectiveness in your survey question, this kind of a five-point Likert scale suits well.

Here's a quick example:

How satisfied were you with your shopping experience at Butterflies Clothing?

Scaling your survey responses using a Likert scale Scaling your survey responses using a Likert scale

When to go for unipolar or bipolar Likert scale?

The type of Likert scale question you choose will depend on the kind of answers you desire from the survey.

The number of scale points we assign to a question will depend on whether the construct is unipolar or bipolar- five in the former, seven in the latter.

To put it simply, unipolar ones are those where you are measuring an amount—either there is a certain amount of something or none.

For instance, if I ask you to rate how important you feel this article, you may say it was very beneficial or not helpful at all. However, there could be an opinion in between that means the article was "somewhat" helpful.

So, the options we are left with here include: Extremely helpful, very helpful, somewhat helpful, slightly helpful, not at all helpful—five scale points. While there is a middle point in this as well, it is not necessarily synonymous with "neutral."

On the other hand, bipolar questions are those where the attitudes fall on one side or the other of a midpoint that is true neutrality. For example, a teacher might want to know if a class is prolonged, too short, or just fine. In this case, the length of the class is a bipolar construct.

Basically, if you're looking to gauge both which side of the neutrality your respondents are on as well as measuring the degree to which they are mentally positioned on each side, opt for the bipolar Likert scale.

What makes Likert scales so popular is that they are quick, simple, and precise. Since respondents can easily understand the intent of the scale and answer the question, it greatly reduces survey fatigue. This is great news, as your respondents can answer your surveys in a jiffy, and you get bias-free responses. The nature of a Likert scale means it can be easily used for customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction surveys.

Now you're officially equipped with the knowledge of how to create effective Likert scale questions, which will ensure you get the right results for easy feedback. Start surveying right away!

Learn more about different question types you can use for your survey.


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