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Response Interpolation and Scale Sensitivity: Evidence Against 5-Point Scales

Kraig Finstad

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 5, Issue 3, May 2010, pp. 104 - 110

Abstract

A series of usability tests was run on two enterprise software applications, followed by verbal administration of the System Usability Scale. The original instrument with its 5-point Likert items was presented, as well as an alternate version modified with 7-point Likert items. Participants in the 5-point scale condition were more likely than those presented with the 7-point scale to interpolate, i.e., attempt a response between two discrete values presented to them. In an applied setting, this implied that electronic radio-button style survey tools using 5-point items might not be accurately measuring participant responses. This finding supported the conclusion that 7-point Likert items provide a more accurate measure of a participantís true evaluation and are more appropriate for electronically-distributed and otherwise unsupervised usability questionnaires.

Practitionerís Take Away

The following are the main findings of this study:

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Response Interpolation and Scale Sensitivity: Evidence Against 5-Point Scales