The Importance of Rating Scales in Surveys

Proper Use of Intervals

Group by type — while you may think that different types of interval scales suit different aspects of the survey, it’s often more successful to use the same throughout. Employees will often go into autopilot and expect the anchors to be the same, so if you start mixing and matching types, you risk the results being skewed.

Ensure intervals are equal — employees taking part have to perceive that the difference between anchors is equal to avoid any bias. An example of a poor set of anchors is: Extremely Poor — Poor — Fair — Good — Excellent. It’s not clear that the difference between Poor and Fair is the same as Fair and Good. In fact, it could be said that the Fair is closer to Good than it is to Poor. Another example of a bad scale is Not At All Satisfied — Satisfied — Very Satisfied — Extremely Satisfied. In this case we talk of a truncated scale. The difference between the first two points (Not At All Satisfied — Satisfied) is likely to be far greater than the other intervals.

Proper Use of Anchors

Choose carefully — the anchor choices you make will have an effect on the results you get, so choose wisely and really put some thought into what you want to achieve from the survey.

Set scale direction — there can be confusion with which is highest, is it ‘1’ or ‘5’? That’s why verbal anchors should be at least at the beginning and end, so participants can see exactly which end of the scale their answer is. Even better is to have verbal anchor at each point in the scale.

Balance anchors — each end of the scale should be opposites of each other to avoid potential bias, so Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree, Never to Always, Extremely Dissatisfied to Extremely Satisfied, and so on.

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