Ordinal Scale

When items are classified according to whether they have more or less of a characteristic, the scale used is referred to as an ordinal scale (definition of ordinal scale). The main characteristic of the ordinal scale is that the categories have a logical or ordered relationship to each other.These types of scale permit the measurement of degrees of difference, but not the specific amount of difference. This scale is very common in marketing, satisfaction and attitudinal research. Any questions that ask the respondent to rate something are using ordinal scales. For example,

How would you rate the service of our wait-staff?

Excellent   o Very Good  o Good  o      Fair  o       Poor  o     



Although we would know that respondent X ("very good") thought the service to be better than respondent Y ("good"), we have no idea how much better nor can we even be sure that both respondents have the same understanding of what constitutes "good service" and therefore, whether they really differ in their opinion about its quality.

Likert scales are commonly used in attitudinal measurements. This type of scale uses a five-point scale ranging from strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree, strongly disagree to rate people's attitudes. Variants of the Likert-scale exist that use any number of points between three and ten, however it is best to give at least four or five choices. Be sure to include all possible responses: sometimes respondents may not have an opinion or may not know the answer, and therefore you should include a "neutral" category or the possibility to check off "undecided/uncertain", "no opinion" or "don't know".

Although some researchers treat them as an interval scale, we do not really know that the distances between answer alternatives are equal. Hence only the mode and median can be calculated, but not the mean. The range and percentile ranking can also be calculated.