My name is Ama Nyame-Mensah, and I am a doctoral student in the Social Welfare program at the University of Pennsylvania.
Likert scales are commonly used in program evaluation. However, despite their widespread popularity, Likert scales are often misused and poorly constructed, which can result in misleading evaluation outcomes. Consider the following tips when using or creating Likert scales:
Hot Tip #1: Use the term correctly
A Likert scale consists of a series of statements that measure individual’s attitudes, beliefs, or perceptions about a topic. For each statement (or Likert item), respondents are asked to choose one option from a list of ordered response choices that best aligns with their view. Numeric values are assigned to each answer choice for the purpose of analysis (e.g., 1 = Strongly Disagree, 4 = Strongly Agree). Each respondent’s responses to the set of statements are then combined into a single composite score/variable.
Hot Tip #2: Label your scale appropriately
To avoid ambiguity, assign a “label” to each response option. Make sure to use ordered labels that are descriptive and meaningful to respondents.
Hot Tip #3: One statement per item
Avoid including items that consist of multiple statements, but only allow for one answer. Such items can confuse respondents and introduce unnecessary error into your data. Look for the words “and” and “or” as a signal that an item may be double-barreled.
Hot Tip #4: Avoid multiple negatives
Rephrase negative statements into positive ones. Such statements are confusing and difficult to interpret.
Hot Tip #5: Keep it balanced
Regardless of whether you use an odd or even number of response choices, include an equal number of positive and negative options for respondents to choose from because an unbalanced scale can produce response bias.
Hot Tip #6: Provide instructions
Tell respondents how you want them to answer the question. This will ensure that respondents understand and respond to the question as intended.
Hot Tip #7: Pre-test a new scale
If you create a Likert scale, pre-test it with a small group of coworkers or members of your target population. This can help you determine whether your items are clear, and your scale is reliable and valid.
The Likert scale and items used in this blog post are adopted from the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale.
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