Response scales

Score questions in Friday use a 5-point Likert-type scale. A Likert scale is used by social scientists to allow people to respond to a question with varying degrees of positivity or negativity.

You will have likely seen versions of a Likert scale when answering questionnaires.

Why a 5-point scale?

Happiness question

There is a lively debate amongst academics as to whether it is better to have scales with an even or an odd number of response code options. Because of this we have tested scales with different response options.

Some researchers like to be able to categorise responses as either ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ without a ‘middle’ option that an odd number inevitably produces. Other researchers believe that it is best practice to give respondents the opportunity to indicate a middle position, because this may best reflect how someone actually feels. This is the argument that persuades us to use a scale with an odd number.

Of the odd response scales, there is a choice between using 3, 5 and 7 options. In our experience, using 7 response options causes confusion amongst respondents as they ponder whether this particular item deserves, say, a three or a four. And a response scale of 3 doesn’t allow for enough differentiation, especially if you are reporting on how you feel with some regularity. In light of these challenges, we consider 5 options to be a good length. Importantly, we are able to augment a 1-5 scale with clear traffic-light colours that emphasise the emotional content of the response.