2-14-11 - Chapter 4: Conceptualization and measurement 14:52

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Chapter 4: Conceptualization and measurement 14:52 Conceptualization The process of specifying what we mean by a term In deductive research, conceptualization helps to translate portions of an  abstract theory into specific variables that can be used in testable hypothesis o Example  Poverty? Social health? High school performance? College performance? Inductive research, conceptualization is an important part of the process used  to make sense of related observations Why is it so important to clarify meanings of a concept? A concept is a mental image that summarizes a set of similar observations,  feelings or ideas If different people mean different things when they mention the same concept  things can get very confusing. o Example – the everyday meaning of a word can be different from its  scientific meaning In casual conversation, when more people hear “significant” they think  it means “big” or “important” In statistical terminology, “significant” has a very specific meaning  having to do with whether an observed pattern That can explain why different researchers choose to do specific things o Example – Conceptualizing “high school performance” Possible definitions of “high school performance” Grades Difficulty of courses taken
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Class rank Aptitude test scores Number of academic awards Participating in school activities, especially leadership positions Having a large social network Graduating from high school o Hypothesis about how high school grades predict college grades would be  different than how having a large social network predicts college grades. Variables  After we define the concepts for a study, we must identify variables that  correspond to those concepts o Measurements must be clear and consistent with the specified definitions  of key concepts Variables each refer to some specific aspect of a concept that varies (differs  across cases) Examples – in this class, some people are male, others are female. Some are  public health majors, others are planning and public policy majors o In this context, major and gender are both variables. Constants Not every concept in a particular study is represented by a variable o Some are called constants because they take on the same value for all  cases in the data. o Example: everyone in this class is a Rutgers student, so both are  constants Student status Rutgers affiliation More on variables and constants o Consider constraints and opportunities in proposed research setting,  distinguished constants from variables
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o To tell whether a particular concept matters, it must vary (be a variables, 
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This note was uploaded on 07/03/2011 for the course PUBLIC HEA 305 taught by Professor Sherry during the Spring '08 term at Rutgers.

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2-14-11 - Chapter 4: Conceptualization and measurement 14:52

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