Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Likert scale wording

Those of us who use surveys regularly are very well aware of the legacy that Professor Rensus Likert has left us, in the Likert scale.

During and after his PhD, Professor Likert critiqued existing survey and interview techniques, and outlined more robust processes and tools. The clarity of his thought has meant that we still use his improvements today (, n.d.b; Edmonson, 2005; Likert, 1932; Likert, Roslow, & Murphy, 1934), and those scales are now named after him.

A Likert scale (always with a capital "L", as this is a proper name) has been defined as a "rating system, used in questionnaires, that is designed to measure people’s attitudes, opinions, or perceptions" (, n.d.a), and as "certain discernible groups of social responses [where... the]response to an attitude, although not inflexible or rigid, [...]move[s] only within a certain range" (Edmonson, 2005, p. 127).

And it is these groups of social responses which gives us some - now - pretty standard sets of scales. They usually come in spans of three, five or seven, with generally accepted wording, designed to work with questions which are written so that the scales provide a logical answer. For example:
  • 5: Excellent - Above average - Average - Below average - Poor
  • 7: Exceptional - Excellent - Very Good - Good - Fair - Poor - Very Poor
  • 5: Satisfied - Somewhat satisfied - Neutral - Somewhat dissatisfied - Dissatisfied
  • 7: Very satisfied - Moderately satisfied - Slightly satisfied - Neutral - Slightly dissatisfied - Moderately dissatisfied - Very dissatisfied
  • 5: Always - Often - Sometimes - Seldom - Never
  • 7: Always - Fairly Often - Somewhat Often - Sometimes - Seldom - Rarely - Never
There are a couple of online sources to consult to get some standard wording for Likert scales here (Sincero, 2012) and here (Vagias, 2006).

It is fascinating that it took the human race until 1932 to think of something so simple and elegant.



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