Can someone neither agree nor disagree?
One of the recurring debates in the research community is about using "even" or "odd" scales. This refers to scales such as:
Where the labels go from one extreme to the other (this Likert scale is a common label set). An odd number of scale points has a neutral point in the middle, while an even scale requires the respondent go to one side or the other.
The argument for even scales (4 or 6 levels) is that everyone has an opinion and a neutral point is essentially a cop-out.
The argument for odd scales (5 or 7 levels) is that a respondent's experience with an element may have been limited or mixed, and they may not have a firm opinion one way or the other.
Last time this cropped up on the American Marketing Association Market Research discussion list, the vast majority were in favor of providing a mid-point.
In my experience, I've also found it important to provide a Not Applicable, N/A, or No Opinion option. If you can, it's best to use skip patterns to bypass sections which may not apply to a respondent, such as rating e-mail assistance when they've only called customer service. However, there are times within a category of ratings when a respondent doesn't feel they can rate a question or two. On paper they can just skip the item; on the Web they can also skip non-required responses, but there's a catch on radio button scales like the one pictured here. Once you select an option on a set of radio buttons, you can change your response, but you can't clear it—hence the value of an N/A.
Ann has been a great resource for us. She responds timely, has good suggestions, and really knows her craft. Ann is our primary resource when it comes to major surveys and reports.
Barry L. Brown