Tuesday, February 27, 2018

ResearchMethods: Operationalizing Your Variables (W8-P1) [VID] Sp18

Once your variables have been identified, then they will need to be measured, but how?   And, what does an operational definition have to do with it?

What is an operational definition?  What does it mean to operationalize a variable?

"Operational definition" is "a statement that describes the observable characteristics of a concept being investigated…”(Frey, et. al).  Or, put differently, an operational definition “specifies the procedures [or operations] the researcher uses to observe the variables” (Stacks, et.al).  Notice how the second definition indicates why it is called "operational."

Both I.V.s & D.V.s need O.D.s.   Operational definitions allow you to measure a variable.

What does the following Jeff Foxworthy comedy have to do with operationalization?  What is Foxworthy doing in his jokes?  Is he operationally defining something?

Operationalization Examples:

1. Let's say you are going to do some research on prejudice, how would you operationalize prejudice?

  • Start with the conceptual definition or dictionary definition:
    • “the irrational hatred or suspicion of a particular group, race, religion, or sexual orientation”(Jandt).
  • What would the operational definition be?  How would you measure prejudice?

What are the basic “operational procedures” or ways of measuring variables?

Operational procedures:
  1. Self-report 
    1. the researcher asks subjects to report about themselves
  2. Observer’s ratings 
    1. researcher asks subject to observer and rate another
  3. Observe behavior
    1. researcher observes subject
Which method would you trust more?  Which would give a more valid measure?  Why?

How would you use these procedures with prejudice or violence?  Which would "work" better?

2. Let's say you are going to do some research on violence and video games, how would you operationalize violence?

  • Conceptual/dictionary definition of violence: "exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse" (Merriam-Websters)
  • 2/12/13 NYT news article about recent research on video games and violence
  • See an example of recent video game and violence research:

3. Let's say you are going to do some research on the effects of television on children, what would be the variables you'd study and how would you operationalize them?

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