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Likert Scale: What It Is and How to Create It

Whether you’re a business owner, educational professional, or student, there’s a good chance you’ve completed (and possibly created) some type of survey in your life — maybe after attending an event, completing a college course, leaving a workplace, or setting up your cable TV service.

In just a few simple questions, surveys provide an excellent, cost-effective way to gather valuable feedback and demographic data, leading to

  • Less guesswork
  • Increased engagement
  • Better decision-making
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • More enhanced products and services

And since surveys are so beneficial in helping you engage with both your current and prospective customers, advertise existing and future products, and expand into burgeoning markets, it’s worth knowing how to create one.

While there are many types of survey questions — multiple-choice, open-ended, ranking — one of the most popular is Likert scale questions.

What is a Likert scale?

Developed in 1932 by social scientist Rensis Likert and predominantly used in social and educational research, a Likert scale is, essentially, a rating scale that helps gauge customer (or employee or student) perceptions and opinions about a particular product or experience by measuring statements of

  • Agreement (most popular)
  • Frequency
  • Importance
  • Quality
  • Likelihood

Unlike binary questions (e.g., “yes or no,” “true or false,” etc.), Likert scale questions allow respondents to choose from a range of responses — like “strongly agree,” “neutral,” or “disagree” (which are also often coded numerically, such as 1 = strongly agree). These kinds of questions provide you, as the researcher, more granular, specific feedback and possible benchmarks to improve the overall customer experience.

Likert scales work for many industries and uses, so they vary accordingly. If you’re looking to create one (or several) for your organization, it’s important to determine which kind you want to use, the instances when it’s appropriate to use, how to write and curate the best questions, and finally, how to create your own Likert scale survey. Don’t worry — we’ll get into all of that.

Variations of Likert scales

When it comes to rating and attitude scales, there are both unidimensional constructs and multidimensional ones.

For the most part, unidimensional models are easier to understand because they have a solitary, underlying dimension — tall or short, heavy or light — that can be measured using a single test. It’s either one or the other.

On the other hand, multidimensional constructs consist of two or more underlying dimensions that need to be measured separately instead of together (for example, using two different tests to assess mathematical vs verbal abilities to gauge academic aptitude).

And though multidimensional constructs have their benefits — especially in the marketing and psychology fields — Likert scaling predominantly uses the much simpler method of unidimensional scaling. (What a relief, right?)

In fact, including the Likert scale, there are four major types of unidimensional scaling methods. While they’re comparable in how they measure the concept of interest, they differ greatly in how they scale.

In addition to the Likert scale (or “Summative” scaling), here’s a breakdown of the other three unidimensional scaling methods.

Thurstone

Though they tout many similarities, the Thurstone scale (named after psychologist Louis Leon Thurstone) was developed four years before the Likert scale and is considered one of the first attitude scales ever used.

While Thurstone initially came up with three different scales — method of successive intervals, method of paired comparisons, and equal-appearing interval — the “equal-appearing interval” method is the most commonly used and referred to today. It’s practically synonymous with the Thurstone scale.

The Thurstone scale is a series of statements about a particular topic, each of which has a numerical value assigned to it that leans toward the positive or negative end of the scale. The survey respondents then select which statements they agree with, allowing the researcher to calculate their mean score and evaluate where their attitude falls on the issue.

Guttman

Also known as the “cumulative scale,” the Guttman scale (created by 20th-century social scientist and mathematician Louis Guttman) measures how much of a positive or negative attitude the respondent feels about a particular topic with just one number.

For example, suppose you score an 8 on a 10-scale Guttman customer satisfaction questionnaire. In that case, the test administrator can confidently assume that you agreed to the first eight questions on the survey — demonstrating you were pretty well satisfied overall.

Survey creators arrange closely related statements (generally just “yes or no” questions) in such a way that as you make your way down the list, they increase in specificity. The idea is that you will quit once you no longer agree with — or select “yes” to — a statement, providing the researcher with a thorough understanding of where everyone’s opinions fall — especially if many people complete the survey.

Say you’re completing a survey about ice cream flavors. While the first few questions may broadly ask your opinion on vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, the further you move down the list of questions, the more specific they’ll be. So if you loathe chocolate, you’ll probably respond negatively to questions about ice cream flavors containing chocolate — mint chocolate chip, chocolate peanut butter, s’mores — and throw in the towel.

Bogardus

Created by professor Emory S. Bogardus, the Bogardus social distance scale was used to measure one’s willingness to participate in social settings and/or with members of different racial and ethnic groups. Like the Guttman scale, the Bogardus scale is cumulative and can be ordered in a hierarchical manner, starting with low-social-distance questions and ending with high-social-distance questions.

However, this scale has been replaced with more sensitive, approachable surveys due to its contentious subject matter.

What to expect

Now that you’ve got some background on Likert scales and their variations, here’s a breakdown of what’s to come. Throughout this guide, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the world of Likert scales, covering

  • Types of Likert scales
  • When you should use a Likert scale
  • How to write Likert scale questions
  • How to create a Likert scale with Jotform

So if you strongly agree with moving forward, let’s get started.

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