Chapter 5-word

Chapter 5
Conceptualization, Operationalization, and Measurement
meaning careful, deliberate observations of the real world for the purpose of describing
objects and events in terms of the attributes composing a variable.
Concepts and constructs
The process of coming to an agreement abut what terms mean is conceptualization and
the result is called a concept.
Ex prejudice, compassion
Dictionaries formalize the agreements our society has about such terms. Each of us
shapes a mental image to correspond with such agreements.
Concepts and constructs
No two people have the exact same interpretation.
You can measure anything.
Ex. The concepts can be real or abstract. Compassion exits only in the form of the
agreements we have about how to use the term in communicating about things that are
real. However, this may differ in certain areas and we need to be specific as to how
compassion is defined.
Concepts as constructs
There are three classes of things that scientists measure:
1) direct observables: those things we can observe rather simply and directly
2) indirect observables: require more subtle, complex, or indirect observations
3) constructs: theoretical creations that are based on observations but that cannot be
observed directly or indirectly
are constructs created from our conception and the conceptions of all those who have
ever used these terms.
They cannot be observed directly or indirectly, because they don’t exist.
Therefore, concepts are constructs derived by mutual agreement from mental images.
helps us to organize, communicate and understand things that are real.
They help us make predictions about real things.
The bridge from direct and indirect observables to useful constructs is the process
called conceptualization.
Definition: the process through which we specify what we will mean when we use
particular terms in research.
What you mean
Conceptualization produces specific, agreed-upon meaning for a concept for the
purposes of research.
Process of specifying clearly exactly what you mean by a term
This process of specifying exact meaning involves describing the indicators we’ll be
using to measure our concept and the different aspects of the concept, called dimensions.
An indicator is a sign of the presence or absence of the concept we are studying.
Ex. We might agree that visiting a children’s hospital on a holiday is an indicator of
Social researchers focus their attention on the meanings given to words and actions by
the people under study.
Dimensionalizing means subdiving a concept into several specifiable aspects
Each dimension of a concept must also be conceptually defined
Example of dimensions
Real, Nominal, and Operational Definitions
The specification of concepts in scientific inquiry depends on nominal and operational
Nominal definition: one that is simply assigned to a term without any claim that the
definition represents a real entity. These are arbitrary.
Most nominal definitions represent some consensus, or convention, about how a
particular term is to be used.
Operational definition: specifies precisely how a concept will be measured – the
operations it will perform.
Nominal Definition
Operational Definition
Measurements in the Real World
Definitions are more problematic for descriptive research than for explanatory research.
Operationalization Choices
Conceptualization is the refinement and specification of abstract concepts, and
operationalization is the development of specific research procedures (operations) that
will result in empirical observations representing those concepts in the real world.
Range of variation
Must be clear about the range of the concept that will interest them in their research.
Variations between the extremes:
degree of precision is a consideration in operationalizing variable
how fine will you make distinctions among the various possible attributes composing a
given variable
Whenever you are not sure how much detail to pursue in a measurement, get too
much rather than too little.
Defining variables and attributes:
an attribute is a characteristic or quality of something
variables are logical sets of attributes
attributes should be exhaustive: for the variable to have any utility in research, we must
be able to classify every observation in terms of one of the attributes composing the
attributes composing a variable must be mutually exclusive
every observation must be able to be classified in terms of one attribute
Levels of Measurements
Nominal measures:
variables whose attributes have only the characteristics of exhaustiveness and mutual
Ex. Gender, political parties
nominal measures merely offer names or labels for characteristics
Ordinal measures:
variables with attribute we can logically rank-order
Ex. SES, alienation, prejudice
you can say one is more than the other
Interval measures:
the actual distance separating those attributes does have meaning
the logical distance between attributes can be expressed in meaningful standard
Ratio measures:
most of the social scientific variables that meet the min. requirements for interval
measures also meet the requirements for ratio measures
however, ratio measures are based on a true zero point
Ex. Age, income
Most of the time interval and ratio measures will be grouped together, and termed
interval/ratio level of measurement.
You must always consider the level of measurement in your research.
You should anticipate drawing research conclusions appropriate to the levels of
measurement used in your variables.
Ratio measures are the highest level, descending through interval and ordinal to
nominal, the lowest level of measurement.
Nominal and ordinal are usually associated with qualitative research and interval and
ratio with quantitative research.
Criteria for Measurement Quality
measurements can be made with varying degrees of precision
precision concerns the fineness of distinction made between attributes composing a
general rule: precise measurements are superior to imprecise ones
reliability is a matter of whether a particular technique, applied repeatedly to the same
object, yields the same result each time
Test-retest method
to make the same measurement more than once, to the same group
you should expect the same response both times
Split-halt method
as a general rule, it’s always good to make more than one measurement of any subtle or
complex social concept, such as prejudice, alienation, or social class
Using established measures
use measures that have proven their reliability in previous research
Reliability of research workers
it is possible for measurement unreliability to be generated by research workers
refers to the extent to which an empirical measure adequately reflects the real meaning
of the concept under consideration
basically, does it measure what you want it to measure
Face validity
Measure appears, on the surface, to measure what the researcher intends to measure
Criterion-related validity
based on some external criterion
Ex. Many occupations have qualifying exams. The validity of the exam is shown in its
ability to predict future evaluations of the individuals’ job performances
Construct validity
based on the logical relationships among variables
we can consider how the variable in question ought, theoretically, to relate to other
Content validity
refers to how much a measure covers the range of meanings included within the
This is a trade off. In a quantitative study, one will get more reliability than validity
and in a qualitative study validity will be more important than reliability.