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Semantic differential

 

Explanations > Social ResearchMeasurement > Semantic differential

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

The Semantic Differential question scale offers a bipolar pair of adjectives between which the respondent must choose along some form of scaling (typically a five-point scale).

The pairs of words need not be opposite and may be used to discover fine differences in viewpoint. They are often adjectives.

Example

 

Please indicate your opinions about the 'Jolly Boys' TV show by checking one box in each row below:

 

  very

much

some-
what
neither some-
what
very
much
 
enjoyable [  ] [  ] [  ] [  ] [  ] boring
likeable [  ] [  ] [  ] [  ] [  ] challenging
noisy [  ] [  ] [  ] [  ] [  ] fascinating
silly [  ] [  ] [  ] [  ] [  ] ridiculous

 

Alternative form, using unmarked, continuous scale (with central position):

     
enjoyable __________________|__________________ boring
likeable __________________|__________________ challenging
noisy __________________|__________________ fascinating
silly __________________|__________________ ridiculous

 

Discussion

This is a relatively unusual form of question that is used in more specialist surveys where the connotative meaning is being explored.

Pairs of words are often clear opposites. This is not always the case, in which case there is more cognitive challenge. This style can be used to test interpretation of words or subconscious perception. It is also possible people will ignore or select random response.

Unmarked scales are more difficult to code afterwards, although this can be done with a Likert-type overlay. The advantage of these is that they are not dependent on the interpretation of words (for example, 'somewhat' can mean a lot or a little to different people). Respondents will tend to  score these relatively - thus if they feel less strongly about a question than the previous one, they will mark the scale in a more central position.

This method gives interval data.

See also

Likert scale, Visual-Analog Rating scale

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