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Chapter 6

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Sociology 2206A/B
Neil Holt

Research Methods Qualitative and Quantitative Measurement Intro • Quantitative researchers more concerned about measurement issues o Treat measurement as a distinct step in research process; occurs prior to data collection and have special techniques and terminology for it o Deductive approach o Begin with a concept, create empirical measures that accurately capture data, and express it in numbers • Qualitative researchers measure very differently o Develop ways to capture and express variable and non-variable concepts using various alternatives to numbers o Inductive o Measure features of social life as part of process that integrates creating new concepts with measurement Why Measure? • Measure physical and non physical world • Extends to our senses • Scientific measurement is more sensitive than sensual measurement – it varies less with the specific observer and yields more exact information • Helps people observe what is otherwise invisible • Extends human senses • Lets us observe things that were once unseen and unknown but were predicted by theory • Some things are not directly observable – attitudes, ideology, divorce rates, deviance, sex roles Quantitative and Qualitative Measurement • Designing precise ways to measure variables is a vital step in planning a study for quantitative researchers • Qualitative researchers use a wider variety of techniques to measure • 3 major distinctions: o Timing  Quantitative think about variables and convert them into specific actions during planning stage that occurs before gathering or analyzing data  Qualitative measurement occurs during data-collection process o Data Itself  Quantitative develop techniques that can produce quantitative data. Moves from abstract ideas to specific data collection to precise numerical information  Qualitative is in the form of written or spoken words, actions, sounds, symbols, non-physical objects or visual things. Converts all observation into many flexible ongoing processes to measure data of all sets o How two styles make linkages  Quantitative contemplate and reflect on concepts before they gather any data  Qualitative reflect on ideas before data collection, but many concepts are developed during data collection Parts of the Measurement Process • Quantitative follow deductive route o Begin with abstract idea o Followed by measurement procedure o Finished with empirical data that represent ideas • Qualitative follow inductive route o Begin with empirical data o Followed by abstract ideas, relate data and ideas o End with mixture of ideas and data • Both use 2 processes Conceptualization: process of taking a construct and refining it by giving it a conceptual or theoretical definition  Conceptualization is process of thinking through the meaning of a construct  Must be very specific  Conceptual definition: definition in abstract theoretical terms: refers to other ideas or constructs  To conceptualize conceptual definition involves careful thinking, direct observation, consulting with others, reading others findings and trying a possible definition  When developing a conceptual definition, researchers often rely on multiple sources – personal experiences, deep thinking, discussions and scholarly literature o Needs to consider the units of analysis that best fit construct o Many constructs have multiple dimensions or types o Must distinguish construct from closely related ones Operationalization: links conceptual definition to a specific set of measurement techniques or procedures, the constructs operational definition  Operational Definition: definition in terms of the specific operations of actions a researcher carries out – surveys, questionnaires, method of observation o Multiple ways to measure a construct o Key is to fit your measure to your specific conceptual definition o Operationalization links language of theory with language of empirical measures o Empirical measures describe how people concretely measure specific variables  Refer to specific operations or things people use to indicate the prescience of a construct that exits in observable reality 5 suggestions for coming up with a measure 1. Remember the conceptual definition 2. Keep an open mind 3. Borrow from others 4. Anticipate difficulties 5. Do not forget units of analysis Quantitative Conceptualization and Operationalization  Sequence: o First: conceptualization o Second: operationalization o Third: Applying operational definition  Link abstract ideas to measurement procedures that will produce precise quantitative information about empirical reality  3 levels to consider: o Abstract level  Interested in causal relationship between 2 constructs = conceptual hypothesis o Operational definitions level  Interested in testing empirical hypothesis to determine degree of association between indicators  Level at which correlations, stats and questionnaires are used o Concrete empirical world level  If operational indicators of variables are logically linked to construct they will capture what happens in empirical world and relate it to conceptual level  Hypothesis has at least 2 variables and processes of conceptualization and operationalization are necessary for each variable Qualitative Conceptualization and Operationalization  Sequence: o Conceptualization: o Refine rudimentary “working ideas” during data collection and analysis process o Conceptualization is process of forming coherent theoretical definitions as one struggles to makes sense or organize the data and ones preliminary ideas o As researcher gathers and analyzes data they develop new concepts , makes definitions for the new concepts and considers relationships among the new concepts o Eventually they link concepts to one another to create theoretical relationships o Form the concepts AS they examine their data o Conceptualization is done through clear, explicit definitions of constructs o Conceptualization is largely determined by the data o Operationalization: o Often precedes conceptualization o Forms conceptual definitions out of rudimentary “working ideas” that were used while making observations or gathering data o Operationalizes by describing how specific observations and thought about the data contribute to working ideas that are the basis of conceptual definitions and theoretical concepts o After-the-fact description more than a before-the-fact preplanned technique o Data gathering occurs with or prior to full operationalization o Mutual interaction – ideas and evidence o Operationalization describes how researcher draw on ideas from data, how they use preexisting data Reliability and Validity  Salient because constructs in social theory are often ambiguous, diffuse and not directly observable  Both ideas are important in establishing truthfulness, credibility or believability of findings  Reliability: o Dependability or consistency o Same thing is repeated or recurs under identical or very similar conditions  Validity o Truthfulness o Refers to a match between a construct o Way a researcher conceptualizes idea in a conceptual definition and a measure o Absence of validity occurs is the a poor fit between constructs researcher uses to describe the social world and what actually occurs in the social world o Validity addresses the question of how well the social reality being measured matches with the constructs researchers use to understand it Reliability and validity in Quantitative Research Reliability  Means that numerical results produced by an indicator do not vary because of characteristics of measurement process or measurement instrument itself  How to improve reliability o 4 ways:  Clearly conceptualize all constructs – reliability increases when a single construct or sub-dimension of a construct is measured. Each measure should indicate one and only one concept  Increase the level of measurement – indicators at HIGHER levels of measurement are more likely to be reliable than less precise measures because they pick up
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