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Lecture 3

SOC221H5 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Operationalization, Likert Scale, Nature One

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Shyon Baumann

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Lec3: Conceptualization, Measurement,
September 21, 2017
3:09 PM
Social concepts most often do not exist as objective things in nature
One may have observations about
o e.g. religiosity, prejudice, deviance, beauty
o Various meanings given to a concept, difficult to define
o People generally agree on what these concepts are
Multiple ways of understanding social concepts
o Political affiliation
Organization definition: ask about official party membership
Identification def: ask what party they identify w/
Behavioral def: ask who they voted for
o Religious affiliation
Identification def: ask what religion one belongs to
Attitudinal def: ask someone about their beliefs
Behavioral def: ask about ritual participation
o Different understanding from each
Concepts: abstract elements representing classes of phenomena
o Building blocks of theories
o Things applied to whole groups of people
o Stage in social research at which we specify what we mean when we use particular terms
First Stage
Conceptualization: process of coming to a decision about what concepts mean and represent w/
regards to social and physical reality
Mental processes whereby fuzzy and imprecise notions are made more specific and precise
Deciding on dimensions
o Dimensions are the main aspects or components of the concept
o First step to being more specific
Second Stage
When we decide how we will measure concepts within study
o Operationalization: how variables will be measured; defining the variables
o Indicators of concepts tell us how the concepts exist in reality. Indicators are never exact
reflections of concepts, but the closer the reflection of reality, the better the indicator
What can we see in order to measure concepts
Importance of multiple indicators
o Using various measures of the same concept on same subjects to ensure that when the
concept is present, it is identified and properly classified
e.g. 7 dimensions of intelligence
e.g. social class
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Dimensions: education, income, neighborhood
Variables: years/level of education, annual household income
o Advantages
Single indicator may misclassify an individual
Broad indicators may capture only a part of the concept while multiple indicators can
capture finer distinctions of the concept present in the subject
Some concepts are harder to access
o Sometimes people are not forthcoming about information (sensitive topics)
o Sometimes people are unaware of how to articulate info in the terms the researcher needs
(e.g. generosity, political orientation)
Single vs multiple indicators
o Single: one observation will suffice
e.g. gender, size of family
o Multiple: a number o observations are necessary
e.g. university performance - single course grade is not enough
Operationalization Choices
Range of Variation
e.g. measuring income - how high do you need to measure?
Likert scale
Defining Variables and Attributes
All variables need to have 2 characteristics
1. Attributes linked to a variable should be exhaustive. This should cover the whole range of a
variable (e.g. "other" category)
2. Attributes should be mutually exclusive e.g. person belongs to either one religion or the
other but not both
Levels of Measurement (NOIR)
o A name
o Basic category, not relationship between categories, order can be switched around and
meaning stays the same
o e.g. female or male
o Ranked
o Categories w/ relationship to one another
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