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CONCEPTUALIZATION, OPERATIONALIZATION, AND MEASUREMENT

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ZODIAC. RELIG. TRAUMA1. CONLEGIS. MILQUAL. PRES96. WRKSTAT ... ideas, symbols, and practices that focus on the meaning of life and the nature of the unknown. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: CONCEPTUALIZATION, OPERATIONALIZATION, AND MEASUREMENT


1
CHAPTER 5
  • CONCEPTUALIZATION, OPERATIONALIZATION, AND
    MEASUREMENT

2
Conceptualization - the process of coming to an
agreement about how to use a social scientific
term (e.g., alienation, poverty, social class,
romantic love, democracy).Conceptualization
results in definitions of concepts mental
images of what we mean by a term.
3
Can concepts be defined objectively?
  • If not, how can we conduct research using
    concepts?
  • Intersubjectivity agreements among subjective
    beings (humans) about the definitions of terms
    used in research.

4
Types of definitions.  Which would be useful to a
researcher?
  • Real definition
  • Nominal definition
  • Operational definition

5
  • Real definition a statement of the essential
    nature or essential attributes of a term
  • Nominal definition a definition that is
    assigned to a term for purposes of communication
    or inquiry a working definition

6
  • Operational definition a specification of how a
    defined term will be measured for purposes of
    research development of specific research
    procedures that will result in empirical
    observations representing the concept in the real
    world

7
Linking conceptualization and data collection -
C-M Diagram
  • Conceptualization

Nominal Definition
Operational Definition
Measurements in the Real World
8
Conceptualization practice
  • The concept might be defined in an ordinary
    dictionary and might also have been used
    previously in social scientific theory and/or
    research.
  • Web of Online Dictionaries
  • Sociology Dictionary, Political Science
    Dictionary
  • Sociological Abstracts

9
  • Consider possible indicators of the concept -
    What would indicate the presence of the concept
    in empirical reality, and what would indicate its
    absence?
  • What indicators could you use to determine
    whether people are experiencing the emotion
    called "romantic love."

10
  • Consider possible dimensions of the concept -
    different facets or aspects of the concept. 
  • Concepts can be unidimensional or
    multidimensional.

11
They make it look easy, but its not!
  • Definitions of concepts in the social scientific
    literature
  • Romantic love (according to Rubin)
  • Workplace alienation (according to Blauner)

12
Operationalization choices
  • Level of measurement
  • Range of variation of attributes (nature of
    extremes)
  • Precision of variations between extremes
  • Use of single or multiple indicators

13
Level of measurement

14
GSS variables and LOM
  • MARITAL
  • AGE
  • EDUC
  • DEGREE
  • ZODIAC
  • RELIG
  • TRAUMA1
  • CONLEGIS
  • MILQUAL
  • PRES96
  • WRKSTAT
  • INCOME98
  • SIBORDER

15
Implications of levels of measurement for data
analysis
  • Restrictions on quantitative data analysis
    techniques. The higher the level, the greater
    the number of choices.
  • Higher level of measurement may be converted to
    lower level (recoded), but not vice versa

16
Range of variation of attributes (nature of
extremes)
  • To what extent are we measuring the extremes of a
    phenomenon?
  • GSS examples - POLVIEWS, CONLEGIS, COMMUN

17
Precision of variations between extremes
  • How precisely defined are the attributes of the
    variable between the extremes?
  • Examples from 1996 General Social Survey 1996
    GSS data

18
Use of Single or Multiple Indicators
  • GSS - Attitudes toward abortion
  • One item ABLEGAL
  • Multiple items - ABNOMORE, ABDEFECT, ABRAPE,
    ABPOOR, ABHLTH, ABANY, ABSINGLE

19
Index construction
  • Combining responses to two or more items into one
    ordinal item (index)
  • GSS Constructing an index (ABINDX) combining the
    responses to ABNOMORE, ABDEFECT, ABRAPE, ABPOOR,
    ABHLTH, ABANY, and ABSINGLE
  • Please tell me whether or not you think it
    should be possible for a pregnant woman to obtain
    a legal abortion if (1Yes, 2No)

20
(No Transcript)
21
Whats a good measurement like? Criteria for
measurement quality
  • 1. Precision
  • 2. Accuracy
  • 3. Reliability
  • 4. Validity

22
1. Precision
  • Definition - the fineness of distinctions made
    between attributes of a variable
  • Which is more precise?
  • Political viewsliberal, moderate, conservative
    or POLVIEWS?
  • RINCOM98 or Gross income reported to the IRS last
    year?
  • Necessity for precision depends on purpose of the
    research

23
2. Accuracy
  • Definition - the extent to which the measure is a
    reflection of the real world degree of
    conformity of a measure to a standard or a true
    value.
  • Survey example - Which one is likely to be more
    accurate?
  • What is your age?
  • In what year were you born?

24
3. Reliability
  • Definition - whether a measurement technique,
    applied repeatedly to the same phenomenon would
    yield the same result
  • Types of reliability
  • a. Test-retest
  • b. Split half
  • c. Use of established measures
  • d. Reliability of research workers

25
3. Reliability - a. Test-retest
  • Definition - testing for reliability using two
    tests, separated by a time interval, in a
    situation in which the researcher does not expect
    the variable of interest to change in value.
  • Examples knowledge of research methods,
    attitudes toward abortion (ABDEFECT), level of
    formal education (EDUC)

26
3. Reliability - b. Split half
  • Definition - testing for reliability of a
    multiple-item measure by splitting it randomly
    into two halves and seeing if the two halves
    correspond in value.
  • Examples 150-item test of knowledge of research
    methods, 50-item romance attitudes scale

27
3. Reliability - c. Use of established measures
  • Many measures of social scientific concepts have
    already been tested and shown to have adequate
    reliability by previous researchers.
  • Examples
  • Rubin's definition and operationalization of
    romantic love
  • Sroles definition and operationalization of
    anomia

28
3. Reliability - d. Reliability of research
workers
  • Research workers may make mistakes which produce
    unreliability (e.g., interviewers reading
    questions incorrectly coders entering
    information incorrectly into data files).
  • Careful training and supervision of research
    workers is essential to maximizing reliability.
  • If the research workers are the data collectors,
    this is also called Inter-rater or
    Inter-observer reliability

29
4. Validity
  • Definition - whether a measurement technique
    adequately reflects the nominal definition of the
    concept

30
Validity on the C-M Diagram
  • Conceptualization

Nominal Definition
Does the measurement technique reflect the
nominal definition?
Operational Definition
Measurements in the Real World
31
Different Approaches to Validity
  • 1. Face Validity
  • 2. Content Validity
  • 3. Criterion-related Validity
  • 4. Construct Validity

32
1. Face Validity - Definition
  • Definition - does the measurement technique fit
    common agreements and mental images concerning a
    particular concept does it seem reasonable?

33
1. Face Validity - Example
  • Nominal Definition Religiosity - extent to which
    a respondent adheres to a set of cultural ideas,
    symbols, and practices that focus on the meaning
    of life and the nature of the unknown.
  • Examples
  • What is your shoe size?
  • How well is the President performing?

34
2. Content Validity
  • Definition - the degree to which a measure
    covers the range of meanings included within a
    concept
  • Examples
  • Does an exam assess all aspects of course
    content?
  • Do questions asking respondents opinion of
    abortion in case of rape and in case the mothers
    health is endangered assess all aspects of
    abortion issues?

35
3. Criterion-related Validity
  • Definition - the degree to which a measure
    relates with some external criterion measuring
    the same concept
  • Examples
  • Does SAT score predict performance in college?
    Some research data
  • Does an index of marital adjustment predict which
    couples later divorce?

36
4. Construct Validity
  • Definition - the degree to which a measure is
    related to other variables within a system of
    theoretical relationships as the researcher
    hypothesizes it should be

37
4. Construct Validity - Example
  • Hypotheses
  • Women should support abortion more frequently
    than men do.
  • Catholics should oppose abortion more frequently
    than those of other or no religious affiliation.
  • Research results
  • Hypothesis is supported - Construct validity of
    measurement technique is supported.
  • Hypothesis is not supported - Construct validity
    of measurement technique is not supported or
    research is poorly designed and executed.

38
Whats wrong with this picture? (Figure 5-2, p.
149)
39
An interesting comparison from two methods
textbooks
Earl Babbie, The Basics of Social Research, 3rd
edition, Wadsworth, Belmont, CA, 2005, p. 149.
Royce A. Singleton, Jr., and Bruce Straits,
Approaches to Social Research, Oxford U. Press,
N.Y., 1999, p. 117.
40
A Caution!
  • Validity has to do with assessing whether the
    measures of our concepts reflect the nominal
    definition we have assigned, NOT the "real"
    definition!

41
Go forth and measure and operationalize in peace!
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