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Research design – operationalization of variables. Chapter 6 in Babbie & Mouton (2001) The construction of actual, concrete measurement techniques; the creation of “operations” that will result in the desired measurements.

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research design operationalization of variables
Research design – operationalization of variables
    • Chapter 6 in Babbie & Mouton (2001)
  • The construction of actual, concrete measurement techniques; the creation of “operations” that will result in the desired measurements.
  • The development or choice of specific research procedures (operations) that will result in representing the concepts of interest.

Research design - operationalization

operationalization
Operationalization
  • An operational definition is a procedure for classifying, ordering, or quantifying something
    • Classifying - crowded or not crowded
    • Ordering - uncrowded, mildly crowded, severely crowded
    • Quantifying - measure crowdedness in terms of the number of residents per square kilometre
  • Focus on questionnaires – other operationalization techniques in section on types of research design

Research design - operationalization

choices to be made about operationalization
Choices to be made about operationalization
  • The range of variation – how large should your categories be?
    • Depends on the purpose of your study – pragmatic considerations (e.g. income)
  • Variation between the extremes – how fine are the disctinctions you want to make in your study?
      • e.g. age
    • Again, depends on the purpose of your study
    • (Why research is such a challenging task – very few recipes)
  • Single or multiple indicators of variables
    • Some straightforward, such as gender
    • But others benefit from multiple indicators

Research design - operationalization

levels of measurement
Levels of measurement
  • Of great concern in psychometrics
  • We look for three elements:
    • A zero point
    • Distances between categories equal
    • Categories can be rank-ordered

Research design - operationalization

nominal measures
Nominal measures
  • Reflects only categories
  • The variable gender has two attributes, male and female
  • They are distinct from one another, but they have no additional structures
  • Also political party affiliation, birthplace, etc.

Research design - operationalization

example
Example
  • The next question is on the subject of work. People look for different things in a job. Which of the following five things would you most prefer in a job?
    • 1. work that pays well
    • 2. work that gives a feeling of accomplishment
    • 3. work where there is not too much supervision and you make most decisions yourself
    • 4. work that is pleasant and where the other people are nice to work with
    • 5. work that is steady with little chance of being laid off

Research design - operationalization

ordinal measures
Ordinal measures
  • Include the above
  • Plus we can logically rank-order the attributes
    • e.g. social class, prejudice
  • We can rank order people according to the amount of education they had

Research design - operationalization

example8
Example
  • 1. very satisfied
  • 2. fairly satisfied
  • 3. neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
  • 4. fairly dissatisfied
  • 5. very dissatisfied

Research design - operationalization

interval measures
Interval measures
  • Include the above
  • Plus the intervals between the attributes have meaning
    • e.g scores on an intelligence test
  • BUT:
    • We cannot say that a person with an IQ of 120 is TWICE as intelligent as one with an IQ of 60
    • And the 5 points difference between 110 and 115, and 95 and 100?

Research design - operationalization

ratio measures
Ratio measures
  • Include all of the above
  • Plus they have a true zero point
  • e.g.
    • how long you have lived in Cape Town?
    • age
    • the number of times you were married
    • income

Research design - operationalization

implications
Implications
  • Mainly for the analysis of data (the statistics part of the course)

Research design - operationalization

indexes and scales
Indexes and scales
  • Social scientific concepts have complex and varied meanings
  • Often difficult to capture all the dimensions of a concept
  • As a result, we normally make multiple observations, and use more than one indicator of a variable
  • Indexes and scales are techniques to combine indicators of a variable into a single measure of that variable
  • They are composite measures of variables – measurements based on more than one data item
  • Typically they are ordinal measures of variables
  • Typical in quantitative research
  • Indexes and scales differ through the manner in which scores are assigned to individual attributes

Research design - operationalization

indexes
Indexes
  • Constructed through the simple accumulation of scores assigned to individual attributes
    • e.g. we add the number of items a person agreed with to obtain a total score
    • e.g. How politically active are you? We give you six statements of political activities you could have been involved in, and if you indicate that you have been involved in three of them, you will obtain a score of 3 on our index of political activism.

Research design - operationalization

scales
Scales
  • A scale recognizes that not all responses reflect the same degree of the presence of a variable
    • e.g. “women are different from men” is a much weaker statement of the variable “sexism” than “women should not be allowed to vote”
  • Also, it assigns scores to patterns of responses

Research design - operationalization

scaling procedures
Scaling procedures
  • Bogardus social distance scale
  • Thurstone scales
  • Likert scaling
  • Semantic differential
  • Guttman scaling
  • The format of the Likert-type scaling is commonly used in questionnaire design today

Research design - operationalization

shopaholicism
Shopaholicism
  • 1 I enjoy shopping
    • SAgr Agr Neither Dis Sdis
  • 2 I look forward to going shopping
    • SAgr Agr Neither Dis Sdis
  • 3 I shop whenever I have the opportunity
    • SAgr Agr Neither Dis Sdis
  • 4 I avoid shopping if I can
    • SAgr Agr Neither Dis Sdis
  • 5 When I visit a town or city I don't know well, I always want to see the shops
    • SAgr Agr Neither Dis Sdis
  • 6 Shopping is a chore that I have to put up with.
    • SAgr Agr Neither Dis Sdis

Research design - operationalization

shopaholicism17
Shopaholicism
  • Scoring - note 4 and 6
  • Level of measurement - ordinal or interval/ratio

Research design - operationalization