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An Introduction to the Thurstone Scale: What You Need to Know

Parvathi Vijayamohan

10 January 2023

3 min read

Like the layers of an onion, behaviors and attitudes are hard to quantify at a glance. But with the Thurstone scale, we can do so objectively.

But what exactly is the Thurstone scale? And how can we use it to measure attitudes and predict outcomes?  In this blog post, we will:

What is the Thurstone Scale?

The Thurstone scale is a psychometric measurement tool developed by Louis Leon Thurstone in 1928. It’s sometimes seen as a forerunner to the Likert scales as both of them are made of statements about a topic.

But in the Thurstone scale, respondents reply to a list of related agree-disagree-neutral statements of varying weights. The respondent’s attitude is calculated as the sum total of the statements they agree with.

Unlike Likert scales which only allow respondents to provide one answer per question, Thurston scales allow them to give multiple answers by assigning each item on the list a score (usually 1-11). This allows researchers to get more detailed results from their surveys.

How To Develop A Thurstone Scale For Survey Research

You can execute a Thurstone scale for survey research with five steps.

Step 1: Pin down your research question. It should be related to attitude, and should focus on a single topic, like “end-of-life care” or “performance related pay”.

Step 2: Create a list of statements that agree, disagree with or are neutral about the topic to varying degrees. The more statements you come up with, the more useful your data will be.

For example, you are creating a Thurston questionnaire on employee attitudes toward performance-related pay (PRP). Your statements may include:

  1. PRP gives an incentive to go above and beyond job expectations.
  2. Good performers are rewarded fast due to PRP.
  3. PRP makes team members less willing to help out. 
  4. PRP increases the quality of the work. 
  5. Management uses PRP to unjustly reward favorites. 

Step 3: Assign a score to each statement from 1-11 based on how supportive you believe the statement is. A higher score equals a more supportive stance while a lower score equals a more unfavorable stance.

The scores are usually assigned in consensus with a panel of experts to reduce bias.

Step 4: Each member of the panel should assign an individual score to each statement. Based on the mean of these scores, each statement is assigned an overall score and sorted in ascending order. This can look like:

StatementMean score
51
33
45.5
27
18.5

When creating the Thurston questionnaire with SurveySparrow, use either the matrix question – text type or the multiple choice question with scoring.

Step 5: Once all of your questions have been created, you will then need to conduct pilot interviews with potential respondents. This helps determine whether or not your questions are clear and easy enough for them to understand.

Finally, you will need to compile all of the data from your interviews into a report so that you can review and interpret your findings. You can also get an easy-to-understand visual report with SurveySparrow’s dashboard feature.

Try it for free.

Pros And Cons Of The Thurstone Scale

Using a Thurstone scale for survey research has its advantages and disadvantages.

Pros:

  • You can write as many statements as you want in the Thurston scale questionnaire. In fact, the more statements you have, the richer your data will be.
  • The Thurston scale is more reliable that most scales because it’s designed by experts.
  • The Thurston scale lets you assign an average score for each respondent. This lets you compare the results of different respondents and make predictions.

Cons:

  • The Thurston scale can be time consuming, in terms of both designing the surveys and analyzing the results.
  • Thurstone scales are complex to execute and will require you to do some mathematical calculations. If you just want to quickly create some questions and share the survey, this might not be the right tool for you.

Scenarios Where A Thurstone Scale Can Be Used

Thurston scales are useful for any survey that measures the opinions or attitudes of a certain group of people. For example, you can use a Thurston scale for measuring customer opinions about a product to predict the rate of turnover.

Another example: You are doing market research on how customers feel about different products or services. A Thurston scale could provide valuable insight into which ones are most preferred by consumers. Additionally, you will find any potential areas for improvement based on customer feedback.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, understanding what a Thurston scale is and how it works is key if you want to use it effectively in your own research projects.

This type of survey method offers greater flexibility than traditional methods such as Likert scales while still providing valuable quantitative data that can be analyzed later on down the line.

However, due its complexity both in terms of designing surveys and analyzing results afterwards, it’s best to use this scale only when necessary or when other methods aren’t sufficient enough for gathering meaningful data. 

Parvathi Vijayamohan

Growth Marketer at SurveySparrow

Fledgling growth marketer. Cloud watcher. Aunty to a naughty beagle.

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