Workshop Exercise on Levels of Measurement
To be done in class and kept, not handed in
For each of these levels of measurement, give two additional examples
Religion (with possible categories such as Protestant, Catholic, Jew, Muslim, Hindu)
Country (with possible categories such as Canada, United States, France, etc.)
Happiness (categories are very happy, pretty happy, not too happy, not at all happy)
Levels of management in a firm (chief executive, vice-president, foreman)
Swimming the 200 meters: (time in minutes and seconds)
SAT scores (possible scores are from 200-800)
Income (income in dollars)
Number of victims of smallpox in a year (number of cases)
Why is it important to consider the question of ‘levels of measurement’ of variables when doing research?
Select one of the following concepts: religiosity, feminism, patient anxiety, or marital happiness. Go through the measurement process by completing the steps below. In the first question, describe the process that you would go through in measuring the concept you selected. First, how would you come up with a nominal definition for your concept. Then explain how you would develop an operational definition for it. Explain how you would develop a nominal definition for it, how you would develop an operational definition of it, and how you would actually measure it. In the second question, be sure your nominal definition of the concept makes sense. Your indicators (the evidence in the third question) should be measures of the various characteristics or qualities that you have stated in your nominal definition. That is to say, your indicators should reflect to your nominal definitions.
1. First, say briefly what you think this concept is about. (In effect, you would be giving a nominal definition). Then spend a moment thinking about your definition. Does your definition capture all aspects and facets of what the concept is about?
2. Then develop an operational definition of the concept. List and justify the indicators you would use in developing your operational definition. (For example, an indicator of ‘amount of education’ could be “highest degree earned” and the justification would be that this indicator appears likely to provide an accurate measure of how much schooling a person has obtained).
At this stage you may list a number of different indicators, depending on your concept. Some will be direct measurements of your concept, others may be indirect reflections. Some may seem more plausible than others, but at this stage it makes sense to be somewhat inclusive and see what you come up with.
3. The final stage will be to choose the indicators you will actually use in measuring your concept. Specify which indicators you have finally settled on, and say why. Sometimes you will select indicators because they are wonderfully direct and accurate measurements. Sometimes you will have to settle for something that is less direct or perhaps even indirect but is possible.
This stage often involves hard choices.
4. Finally, look back at the original concept that you listed under # 1, and compare it with what you wound up in # 3. Is the difference so great that it will cause a problem in conducting your research, or is it small enough to be acceptable? (This question isn’t easy to answer, but it’s good to think about it nonetheless.