Developed by Charles Osgood in 1957, the semantic differential scale plays an integral role in helping researchers understand the emotive perception of their research subjects. This research tool allows participants to let researchers in on how they feel about specific scenarios. 

In this article, we will let you in on what a semantic differential scale is, its functions, and how to create a semantic differential scale survey using Formplus. More than quantitative values, organizations must leverage semantic differential scales to assess the emotive dispositions of customers towards service delivery. 

What is the Semantic Differential Scale?

A semantic differential scale is a type of rating scale that weighs respondents’ perceptions of or attitudes towards a specific subject matter through an array of questions. This rating scale allows individuals, organizations, and other stakeholders to measure the emotive meanings of words in predetermined contexts. 

Typically, it represents a contextual inquiry into a form respondent’s disposition towards an event. When presented with a semantic differential scale, the form respondent has to choose the option that best resonates with his or her emotive perception of the subject, from the set of binary opposing adjectives. 

Examples of Semantic Differential Scale

Matrix Rating

In matrix rating, form respondents are presented with a close-ended question that requires them to evaluate a set of items via the same parameters. Matrix questions are usually presented in a grid-like format of rows and columns where the rows present questions and the columns align predetermined choices. 

Matrix rating allows form respondents to provide answers to related questions at a go; placing the questions and options in a grid makes it easy for responses to be provided. It is apt for customer satisfaction surveys, inquiries about brand-perception of the target market, among other things. 

Examples of Matrix Rating Scale with Formplus


Open-Ended Question

 An open-ended question is a free-end question that is not limited to yes/no responses. Unlike closed-ended questions, open-ended questions allow respondents to fully communicate their thoughts, feelings, and reservations about the specific subject matter at hand using open text format.

With open-ended questions, there are few or no restrictions, and form respondents can freely express their thoughts without constraints. This type of question provides better insights into the thought patterns, expectations, and perceptions of the form respondents in line with specific contexts. 

Examples of Open-ended Questions with Formplus


Rating Scale

A rating scale is a type of close-ended survey question that allows form respondents to provide comparative feedback on particular features, products, and services. Rating scales allow researchers to carry out a qualitative evaluation by gathering relative information from form respondents about the specific subject matter. 

Rating scales can be ordinal or interval. An ordinal scale presents options in an orderly manner and it can be used when parameters such as feedback or attitude come to play, while an interval scale presents its answer variables in a sporadic manner. 

Example of Rating Scales with Formplus


Star Rating Scale

 A star rating scale is a type of matrix rating scale that allows respondents to evaluate a product or service by ranking attributes on a 5-point visual scale represented by stars as opposed to checkboxes or radio buttons. 

Including a star rating scale in your survey or questionnaire improves survey response time and reduces your survey drop-out rates. Because it is easy and simple to use, star rating scales are used in many feedback surveys including customer satisfaction surveys and product surveys. 

Examples of Star Rating Scales with Formplus


Heart Rating Scale

 A heart rating scale is a common type of pictorial rating scale that allows form respondents to indicate how they feel about a specific subject matter by show of hearts. Just like a star rating scale, the heart rating scale uses hearts as opposed to checkboxes, numbers, and radio buttons, to measure a respondent’s level of satisfaction with a service. 

Examples of Heart Rating Scales with Formplus


How to Create Survey Questions with Semantic Differential Scale 

Formplus allows you to seamlessly conduct online surveys using the powerful form builder. Here, you can create different types of surveys containing semantic differential scales including heart rating scales and open-ended questions, and administer them to form respondents, with little or no stress.  

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to create survey forms containing semantic differential scales using the all-in-one form builder. 

Sign in to Formplus

To access the Formplus builder, you will need to create an account on Formplus, and this can be completed in a few minutes. After this, log into your account to access the form builder and click on “create form” to start building your survey. 

You can also modify available templates in the form builder to suit your survey needs. 

Edit Form Title

Click on the field provided to input your form title, for example, “Semantic Differential Scale Survey”.

Edit Form 

  • Click on the edit button to start editing the form.
  • Add Fields: Drag and drop preferred form fields into your form in the Formplus builder inputs column. In the inputs section, you can add different ratings such as star and heart ratings, to the semantic differential scales in your survey.

  • Edit fields: Add an appropriate field label and optional help text to the semantic referential scale. You can also make your form hidden or “read-only”. 
  • Click on “Save”
  • Preview form. 

Form Customization

Formplus form customization options allow you to change the appearance of your survey in line with your brand image or personal preferences. With Formplus, you can change your form theme, add background images, and even change the font according to your needs.

Why Use Formplus’ Semantic Differential Scale for Surveys

  • Easy Data Analytics

Formplus allows you to automatically access interesting insights about your data collection process. In the form analytics dashboard, you can view important metrics including the total number of form views, total number of submissions, amongst other things. 

If you want to create instant visual reports for your form data, you can use the robust report summary tool. This tool allows you to immediately view selected form fields and data as simple and creative graphs and charts. 

  • Drag-and-Drop Form Builder

It’s really easy to create your survey containing semantic differential, with Formplus. Formplus has a drag-and-drop form builder that allows you to add fields to your form by simply clicking on the preferred fields or dragging and dropping them into your survey form. 

There are also more than 30 fields available in the builder which allows you to collect information the way you like in your form. You can easily add rating fields to create semantic differential scales in your survey form

  • Multiple Survey Sharing Options

Formplus offers multiple form-sharing options which enables you to easily share your survey with target respondents. You can use the direct social media sharing buttons to share your form link to your organization’s social media pages. 

You can send out your survey form as email invitations to your research respondents too. If you wish, you can share your form’s QR code or embed it on your organization’s website for easy access.

  • Cloud Storage Support

Formplus allows you to store your form data in your preferred external cloud storage; preventing indiscriminate loss of important data. Presently, Formplus supports Google Drive, One Drive, and Dropbox cloud storage systems so that you can receive, organize, and share form data directly from these cloud storage systems. 

  • Offline Forms

Survey respondents can fill out your survey and submit it, even when they have poor or no internet access and this means that poor internet connectivity does not have to stall your data collection process, anymore. All offline form responses are automatically synced with our secure servers immediately internet connection is restored. 

  • Mobile-Friendly Forms

These days, more people fill out surveys on their mobile devices and this is why Formplus forms are mobile-friendly. This means that your survey respondents can conveniently complete your online survey from the comfort of their smartphone devices without any hassles. 

Differences Between Semantic Differential Scale and Likert Scale 

  • Definition

A semantic differential scale is a type of rating scale that allows respondents to communicate their emotional perceptions of the research subject in different contexts. On the other hand, a Likert scale is a unidimensional scale that allows form respondents to communicate their opinions about a specific subject; usually in terms of the degree of agreement. 

  • Method of Inquiry

On Likert scales, the researcher provides assertions and requires the form respondent to indicate the extent to which s/he agrees with the statement. In a semantic differential scale, the researcher allows the form respondent to complete the assertion in line with his or her emotional perception. 

  • Flexibility

On a Likert scale, the respondent is restricted to primarily agree or disagree with the assertion while on a semantic differential scale, the respondent has more flexible options that allow him or her to capture the true feelings. 

  • Authenticity

Qualitative findings from a semantic differential scale are more authentic than the findings derived from a Likert scale. This is because a semantic differential scale provides more specific options that are emotive in nature. 

  • Semantic differential scales are more appropriate when you want to gather information about respondents’ overall perceptions of a good, product, or service. A Likert scale is used when you want to gain insights into respondents’ perceptions of particular qualities of a product or service. 

Advantages of the Semantic Differential Scale 

  • A semantic differential scale allows form respondents to fully express how they feel about the subject matter. The polar options require the respondent to provide specific responses reflecting their emotive perceptions about the matter at hand. 
  • By requiring the form respondent to choose from extremely opposite adjectives, a semantic differential scale allows form respondents to provide precise feedback which provides better research insights. 
  • The findings from a semantic differential scale are more authentic than other types of rating scales.
  • The information collected via a semantic differential scale is very reliable. This is because the form respondent can easily understand the choices presented and go with the one that best resonates with him or her. 
  • Semantic differential scale type questions are apt for customer satisfaction surveys and behavior analysis. These types of questions are more versatile. 
  • A semantic differential scale makes it easy for the user to assert his or her feelings because it poses two options that are bipolar adjectives. 


Disadvantages of the Semantic Differential Scale

  • One of the major disadvantages of a semantic differential scale is the lack of standardization. Many times, it is difficult to decide on the number of divisions that should be included in the scale; with fewer divisions, the scale becomes inaccurate and with more divisions, the scale goes overboard. 
  • Neutral responses are often difficult to interpret when it comes to semantic differential scales.
  • Survey Bias: Sometimes, it may be difficult to provide emotive parameters that capture all possible perceptions of the form respondents. Hence, the form respondent may have to choose an option that does not necessarily reflect his or her emotional disposition to the product or service. 
  • Subjectivity: Research findings arrived at through the use of a semantic differential scale are often subjective. This is because they depend, almost entirely, on the judgment and interpretation of the researcher. 


Without any doubt, the semantic differential scale gives researchers a better insight into the emotive thought-patterns of research subjects. Hence, it is very useful in informing the creation of products, processes, and services that appeal to the psyches of these form respondents. 

Formplus makes it easy for you to create semantic differential scales with its easy-to-use form builder. You can create different types of semantic differential scales by dragging preferred rating fields from the builder’s inputs section and dropping them in your survey form. 

  • busayo.longe
  • on 9 min read


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