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Use of negatively-worded items in surveys

Survey items can be positively-worded (e.g., The workshop objectives were clear) or negatively-worded (e.g., The workshop objectives were unclear). When including negatively-worded survey items, they are usually reverse-coded in order to combine the data with the data obtained from positively-worded items.

One of the WORC teams worked on answering the following research questions:

  • What are the purposes of including negatively-worded items in surveys?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of using all positively-worded items and using a mix of positively-worded and negatively-worded items?
  • What impact does inclusion of negatively-worded items have on the validity and reliability of the survey instrument?
  • What evidence-based recommendations does the body of current research provide to the OPWL practitioners, regarding the use of negatively-worded survey items?

The WORC team’s article has been published in Performance Improvement Journal:

Chyung, S. Y., Barkin, J., & Shamsy, J. (2018). Evidence-based survey design: The use of negatively-worded items in surveys. Performance Improvement Journal, 57(3), 16-25. doi: 10.1002/pfi.21749

WORC researchers who participated in this project are:

The researchers also presented the research findings at the ISPI BABS chapter meeting and 2019 ISPI conference:

Chyung, S. Y., Swanson, I., & Shamsy, J. (2017, August 30). Write a strong survey instrument using evidence-based practices. Presented at ISPI-BABS Chapter meeting.

Swanson, I., Roberts, K., Shamsy, J., & Chyung, S. Y. (2019, April 14). Bring me data! Evidence-based survey design. Presented at ISPI’s Performance Improvement Conference, New Orleans, LA.