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Abstract

The semantic differential is a widely applied measurement technique in the information systems field. As we demonstrate in this study, however, there is evidence that many of the applications of the semantic differential seem to be subject to common shortcomings. In this study, we address these shortcomings by creating awareness of the requirements underlying semantic differentiation. We discuss the requirements of semantic differentiation and use them as a foundation to introduce a framework to assist researchers in applying the semantic differential more adequately. The framework puts renewed emphasis on bipolar scale selection and dimensionality testing, introduces semantic bipolarity as new criterion, and proposes distinct stages for the testing of wording and contextual contamination. We exemplify the framework using an illustration exercise, which centers on the assessment of the meaning of the concept “electronic marketplace quality”. Using a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods, the illustration exercise clarifies the prerequisites for semantic differentiation and provides suggestions for researchers. The paper concludes with a discussion of several methodological implications.

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