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Lecture 3: Conceptualization, Operationalization and Measurement

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Katie Stuart- Lahman

SOCB05 – Lecture 3 – May 23 2013 Conceptualization, Operationalization, and Measurement Concepts and Constructs  Concepts o Term (nominal definition) that represents an idea that you wish to study. Typically based on experience. o Collections of seemingly related observations or phenomenon  Concepts as Constructs o Something that we have created or socially constructed o Example: Racism, prejudice, etc. o Constructs: Agreed upon phenomenon. When they are agreed upon it is an example of something that we have socially constructed.  Examples: Truth, Beauty, Value Systems, etc. More on Constructs  Three classes of things that social scientists measure: o Directly Observable  Example: Number of people in the room o Indirectly Observable  Example: Socioeconomic Status o Constructs  Creations based on observations.  Cannot be directly or indirectly observed.  Example: Gender o Can be directly observable (Gender presentation) o Can be indirectly observable (check boxes on surveys) Conceptualization  The process of coming to an agreement about what concepts mean and represent  The stage in social research at which we specify what we mean when we use particular terms/concepts o Give meaning  Can be your own words, or use an outside source. o Name it o Develop the dimensions of it that identify the subgroups. o Give it indicators for each subgroup.  Example: o Hypothesis: Lower social status in college students directly correlates to an increase in religiosity  Religiosity: could be how often you attend church, how often you pray, similarities between their morals and their religion, etc.  Conceptualization -> Operationalization  Conceptualization  Operationalize o Providing the criteria for measuring a concept o What will you be observing? How will we know its there? o Often continues throughout the research process o The development of research procedures that will result in empirical observations representing our concepts in the real world. How do we operationalize?  Quantitative o A detailed definition of the concept o Information about the scope of the concept measured o Detailed information about how the concept will be measured o Discussions of dimensions and indicators  Qualitative o Less detail provided regarding measurement o Sometimes operationalization occurs after data collection o Discussions of dimensions and indicators Indicators  Observation we choose to consider as a reflection of a variable we wish to study  Defining indicators can often lead to controversy and disagreement  Example: Attending religious services might be considered an indicator of religiosity Indicator vs Dimension  Dimensions o We classify different meanings into different groups o A concept may have more than one dimensions (example, social status) o Is a specifiable aspects of a concept  Indicators o A sign of the presence or absence of the concept being studied o … Steps to Follow  Decide on the degree of precision you need and the range of variation that you will include o What will be the categories of your attributes  Can/should you combine attributes into larger categories?  What should be your lowest and highest categories? o Precision will be affected by who you are studying and how much they will know.  Especially when it comes to household income, and such.  Conflicting goals when creating measures o You want variance (Some observations in each response category) o You also want a range of measurement  Operationalization (in Quantitative studies) should be: o Mutually exclusive – everybody fits into only one category o Exhaustive –
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