You’ve probably given a lot of thought to the scales you use in your research. You’re undoubtedly aware of the advantages and disadvantages of 5-point Likert vs. 4-point Likert scales, and you’ve probably even spent time arguing with colleagues or clients over whether a 7-point or 5-point scale would produce better learning in a given situation.
Here’s the part where I piss you off and tell you I believe you’re doing it wrong:
You’re doing it wrong.
This is the thing, and it’s a theme I will never stop hammering: market research is a conversation between the researcher and the respondent. The more the interaction feels like an actual conversation to the respondent, the easier and more natural the process is. You ask a question, you get an answer. I think fairly few people would say it’s difficult or onerous or boring to hold a conversation with a friend, and yet, those are probably the very first words many would use to describe the agony of taking a typical piece of research.
So what does this have to do with scales?
Which of these is a conversation you can imagine people having in real life?
- “Bob, I think that woman over there is very attractive. Do you strongly agree? Somewhat agree? Neither agree nor disagree? Somewhat disagree? Or strongly disagree?”
- “Bob, on a scale of one to seven, I think that woman over there is a perfect seven.”
- “I’d give her a 10. What do you think?”
In other words, no one in the history of the world has ever described a beautiful woman (or an attractive man, or a perfectly executed Olympic gymnastic routine) as being “a perfect 5.” Frame your questions in terms that your respondent are already familiar with, so they don’t have to constantly keep translating your strange foreign language of research-speak into English, so that they can understand it, formulate an answer, and then translate it back again into research-speak so they can give you the response you’re forcing them to choose.
tl;dr: stop screwing up the conversation.