At some point, most surveys will make use of one or more Likert-type scales. These scales offer a set of symmetric and balanced response options to one or more statements or questions. For example, a 5-point Likert-type scale for agreement/disagreement looks like this:
- Strongly agree
- Neither agree nor disagree
- Strongly disagree
In this example, the options each have an equivalent response on the other end of the scale: “strongly agree” is the opposite of “strongly disagree,” and “agree” is the opposite of “disagree.” The options also have relatively equal distances between each answer point. Useful Likert-type scales will maintain both this symmetry and balance.
Number of Responses
Most Likert-type scales will use an odd number of responses. Using an odd number of responses allows for a neutral position in the middle, which is beneficial for most research projects. There are some research projects, however, when removing the neutral position is beneficial, such as those using emotional response scales. By removing the neutral position in these scales, researchers force their respondents to choose one of the emotional responses rather than remaining uncommitted.
Surveys that use an odd number of responses most often use a 5-point scale. As the example below shows, a 3-point scale does not offer much nuance, a 7-point scale can be a bit too nuanced, and a 5-point scale offers a bit of balance between these two options.
|3-Point Likert-Type Scale||5-Point Likert-Type Scale||7-Point Likert-Type Scale|
If you use Qualtrics to build your survey, many Likert-type scales are built into the software:
- Click the box next to “Automatic Scale Points” on the right side of the screen under where you select the number of scale points you want to use.
- Choose the type of scale you want to use from the drop-down menu.
If you don’t want to use the automatic scales or are using a program that doesn’t offer this option, you can easily build your own. You simply want to be sure you are maintaining both symmetry and balance in your scale. For further guidance, you can examine—and use—scales that others have already developed. Two lists of potential scales can be found here:
You may also consider using an instrument (including its scales) that one or more of the studies in your literature review used. Depending upon your research question, there may be instruments and scales that are regularly used in similar primary research projects, and you should feel free to use—and cite—these in your own primary research methods.