Part 2: Identification of Indicators, Variables and Potential Items (150 Points)

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1 Part 2: Identification of Indicators, Variables and Potential Items (150 Points) Objectives: After completing this assignment, you will know how to: 1. Identify the indicators or variables that other researchers have used to represent systematized theoretical constructs 2. Incorporate concepts of discriminate, convergent and nomological validity to select specific indicators or variables that you will use in your research to represent systematized concepts 3. Select and develop an initial slate of potential items for scoring variables 4. Create quantitative and qualitative procedures for converting the responses to individual items to scores for variables or indicators 5. Use expert panel review to eliminate and/or modify an initial slate or inventory of potential items General or background constructs or concepts are mostly universal in their social scientific definition, which differs greatly in most cases from the general public usage. We are not concerned with the background constructs/concepts in this class. Systematized constructs differ somewhat from theory to theory, but the differences are often not great within a theoretical perspective. Once you have selected a specific definition for a construct, you must not revise it after you have developed your instruments because you base your instruments on the definition selected. If you change the definition, you need to change the instrument. Most constructs have more than one dimension they re complex. For example, socio-economic status has at least two dimensions social status and economic status. Social status can be broken down even further. For example, one could have social status related to things like your educational level and profession and social status related to recognition or role in various organizations (church, local organizations, fraternities, etc.). So you need to develop or identify a systematized definition for each of these dimensions (I call them primary constructs in the cheat sheet on theories). These are still abstract concepts, whatever you call them. Indicators on the other hand, are specific to a given research context and study. Indicators go by many names. I tend to use the term variable and I think this is the most common term, but some also use the term measure. The point is that all of the different variables used to represent the same systematized definition of a given construct should measure the same abstract idea. Otherwise, we cannot compare results from different studies a big problem in the social sciences. For example, if you are conducting a study in the United States, you might have three indicators representing social status characteristics of the community where the person lives, professional achievements, and public recognition. These indicators would not be good ones in a study somewhere else where communities are not good indicators of social class or where public recognition is not common. However, someone doing research there could develop other indicators of social status and, if both of you took care to ensure good reliability and validity for your indicators, you could compare your results theoretically which if you remember is a big part of your contributions to the body of knowledge. You need at least one indicator for each construct or dimension of a construct therefore you can obviously have several indicators to represent one construct if the construct has several dimensions. However, you can also use several indicators (or variables) to represent a single construct or a single dimension of a construct. You have to make the decision and you must justify your decision in terms of the reliability and validity of the actual scores that are produced (see Adcock & Collier). We must state formal and/or statistical hypotheses in terms of the specific indicators and we often express some of the objectives of the study in terms of indicators or variables as well, rather 1

2 than construct. It s messy. That s true. Explain your thought processes and justify your decisions as you complete this assignment. You can always add scores together, so it is better to err on the side of many indicators and then combine scores if needed at the analysis stage. Items are attributes or characteristics of people, organizations or processes that we can ask people about or observe. They are very concrete and specific. Technically an indicator or variable could consist of a single item, but single item indicators or variables are rare. We analyze the scores for variables or indicators, not items. We state statistical hypotheses in terms of indicators or variables, not items. There are several reasons why we use multi-item indicators so much. (1) They have greater reliability than single-item measures. (2) We cannot ascertain most of what we want to know with a single item. (3) Multiple items give us greater opportunity to convert ordinal or even nominal scores to interval scores and that has enormous advantages in analysis. (4) Multiple items allow us to make some decisions about how to assign scores to cases (step 4 in Adcock & Collier s article) after we have completed data collection (for example, re-run reliability tests and eliminate a few items that prove problematic). The process of going from abstract concept that is generic to the theory to a variable or indicator that is specific to your study context to actual questions is called operationalization. Together, a set of indicators (variables) and items must capture the full meaning of the systematized concept they are supposed to represent. The reliability and validity of the scores (data and results) that you generate depends completely on the quality of the process that you use: Bad process = bad data = meaningless results. To make your task yet more difficult, the terminology is very poorly used. Most authors never refer to indicators, but rather to variables, which can be confusing. However, some authors refer to items as variables or refer to items as indicators or may lump all of these together and call them measures. It s a mess out there. Be careful in your use of these terms in your real professional life and please don t add to the confusion. For this class, use the definitions provided here. Documents you will submit First Draft of Instrument. Submit the draft instrument, including all supporting documentation like instructions for an interviewer or instructions for completing an on-line index, to SAKAI. Label the Word document YourLastName_First_Draft_Instrument Procedure for Technical Review. Submit a copy of the protocol you used for peer review, including any supporting documentation like instructions, definitions, or forms for their observations. Label the Word document YourLastName_Technical_Review Instrument after Technical Review. Submit the version of the instrument incorporating changes made after cognitive testing. Label the World document YourLastName_Instrument_After_Review. Procedures Select one or more constructs to operationalize. 2

3 Select and define the variables or indicators that you will use to create scores for this construct, based on those used by previous researchers and reported in the literature and any additional variables/indicators that are useful for your study. Determine the method of data collection that you will use and create all instruments and protocols that you will need. Conduct two technical reviews of the instrument(s) and procedures. Determine the changes to the instrument(s) you would make as a result. Discussion and Explanation. You will find a list of questions below. Answer each in your own words (avoid copy and paste from references). Use, cite and reference the research methods literature in your responses. Draw on the reviews of research techniques that you and your colleagues have submitted, required readings besides Bryman and my cheat sheets, materials that you find for yourself, and the additional materials listed at the website. Demonstrate that you have extended your knowledge about the specific instrument that you will use, beyond the basics covered during the course. Do not repeat generalities from the literature. Be specific and explain how you used each reference in your own work. 1. Provide the systematized definition of the construct that you selected to operationalize just copy and paste from Part 1 of the Semester Project completed earlier in the semester. 2. Explain the contributions to the body of knowledge that you hope to make with your research (your research objectives). 3. Explain the specific characteristics of the context in which you will conduct your study that you will consider as you develop your instrument. These may include characteristics of the population, setting, or place in which the research will occur. 4. Indicate the method of data collection you will use for your study. Explain why the method chosen is a good choice for the kind of data that you need to collect. Discuss alternatives that you considered and explain the factors that you used to make the final choice. 5. For each systematized construct you will operationalize, list and give definitions of the indicators (variables) that others have used to capture the meaning of the construct (use a table if you want). Indicate which of these variables or indicators you will retain or modify and list those that you will create yourself. Explain your decisions based on the considerations of (a) the context for your study, (b) evidence in the literature about the reliability of the selected indicators, and (c) evidence in the literature regarding the nomological, discriminant and convergent validity of the indicators. Explain the factors you considered in some detail. Use the research methods literature and research reports relevant to your theory and research objectives. You can use the same reports used in your development of a definition of the systematized concepts, but I anticipate that you will need some additional references to complete the instrument and protocol. 6. Provide a list of potential items that you will test for each variable listed in your response to question 3. Include both items that you adapt/adopt from the published literature and items that you develop yourself. Cite and reference the source for each item that you draw from the literature, including those items that you will adapt to the context for your study (a table is an efficient way to do this). I also want you to gain expertise in developing items yourself. 3

4 Therefore, it is a requirement that you develop at least half of the items yourself. You should have a comprehensive list of potential items for each indicator or variable. Remember, as we have discussed, that redundancy may be valuable in and of itself, especially to test congruency. Explain and justify your decisions about retaining, adapting and adding items. Consult, cite and reference the research methods literature in developing your response to this question. Make sure these references are relevant to the kind of instrument that you are developing and to the concepts that we have discussed in this course. 7. Explain how you will score items including both quantitative measures and open response items. Discuss your decisions regarding issues such as reverse scoring, response format, level of measurement, etc. Make sure you explain your decision-making regarding steps taken to ensure that you (1) capture the full range of possible responses and (2) ensure discriminatory power of the scores. Explain how you will convert the responses to your items into variable or indicator scores. This refers to both quantitative measures and qualitative measures like responses to interview questions or focus groups. Consult, cite and reference the research methods literature in developing your response to this question. Make sure these references are relevant to the kinds of instruments that you are developing and to the concepts that we have discussed in this class e.g., citing examples of how to develop a score for an index is not appropriate when discussing how to score open responses from a focus group. 8. Get at least two experts in social research methods to provide a technical review of your draft instrument(s) and protocols. This can be members of this class or others. This is NOT a test of the items or protocols like the cognitive test. We usually try to get people from the population of interest or at least like the population for cognitive testing. A technical review usually precedes cognitive testing and is an expert review. You want people who have expertise in research methods, experience in similar or related research, and expertise in your topic and your theoretical approach to review your instruments. It is difficult to find people who have all three of these areas of expertise. Select your expert reviewers to cover as many of these aspects as possible for example one person with expertise in research methods and one with expertise in your topical area. Make sure your reviewers have your definition of the systematized construct with them when they review your instrument(s). Otherwise, they may have no idea or a different idea from yours of what you are trying to operationalize. You also need to provide them with information about the context in which you will conduct your research. Getting expert help is more than simply asking someone to look over your instrument. Except for some blatant problems, most of us cannot provide much useful insight when given such a broad and vague task. Be specific and think carefully about what you need from each reviewer. Give the reviewers guidance about the kind of input that you want. Focus on the issues involved in validation. Do not focus too much at this point on things like clarity of the items, problems can be identified by representatives of the population of interest in the research. In the technical review focus on things like the validity of your systematized definitions, how appropriate the instruments are, and your ideas for converting responses into scores (quantitative or qualitative). Focus on enhancing validity, reliability, and discriminatory power. Describe the review process that you used in detail. What recommendations did the reviewers make? Which of their recommendations did you accept and which did you reject? Explain and justify the decisions that you made. Use, cite and reference the research methods literature used to make your decisions. 4

5 Grading Rubric for Part 2 of the Individual Semester Project: Development and Technical Review of Instrument(s) and Protocols (150 possible points) Objectives, Context, and Selection of Research Methods (25 possible points) Demonstrated an understanding of the nature of information provided by two or more alternatives for data collection Justified the final choice(s) of methods based on strengths of the approach and the use of complementary (mixed) methods if appropriate Explained the relationship between the planned contributions to the body of knowledge and the selection of research methods Identified at least two characteristics of the population of interest or context in which the research would be conducted that are will require consideration in the development of the instruments and protocols Reliability and Validity of Indicators (25 possible points) Identifies indicators used to represent constructs in the literature Accurately identifies any (may be none) evidence relating to reliability of indicators, including statistical and non-statistical procedures Correctly interprets the evidence that is identified Applies key concepts from course regarding reliability to justify decisions for selecting indicators to use in study Accurately identifies evidence relating to congruent, discriminate and nomological validity of indicators Correctly interprets evidence, using key concepts from course, relevant to all forms of validity to justify decisions for selecting indicators to use in study Initial Selection and Development of Items (30 possible points) Consistently applied principles of item development regarding wording, clarity, etc. to ensure that items are easy for participants to understand and answer Explained how different types of items were incorporated into the instrument to ensure that the instrument captures the full range of potential responses and enhances discriminatory power Uses a wide and appropriate range of techniques available in social research (such as those discussed under nifty techniques) to create a robust instrument and protocols, especially techniques that will enhance the researcher s ability to assess congruent, nomological and discriminant validity Gave specific examples of how the materials in Adcock & Collier and other recommended and required readings were used to enhance the quality of the instrument and protocols Technical Review (30 possible points) Used and explained procedures for technical review Selected appropriate reviewers and provided them with all information and instructions needed to conduct a high-quality review The procedures were thorough and went beyond aspects of item clarity like grammar, wording, etc. Clearly identified and describes strengths and weakness of proposed instruments and protocols that emerged from the review Addressed weaknesses and improved the instrument(s) and protocol(s) Clearly justified any changes to the instrument that were made, consistently explaining how key concepts related to reliability and validity were applied in the decisions about how to improve the instrument 5

6 Used the cognitive test in particular to assess the degree to which the proposed items capture the full range of responses and reflect the thought processes of respondents Was able to distinguish between the role of cognitive testing versus observation in improving the quality of research instruments Use of research methods literature (25 possible points) Consulted, cited and referenced extensive research methods literature in developing responses Used materials that are relevant to the content of this assignment and that build upon, extend, or contrast to the concepts that we have discussed in this class Used materials other than Bryman and my cheat sheets, such as other required readings, additional materials listed at the web site, materials that your colleagues share with the class, and materials that you find yourself Explained how you used each reference e.g., what you got out of the material that you applied to respond to the assignment General (15 possible points) All in-text citations and references in APA style without errors Followed all instructions Provided complete, specific answers to all questions in your own words Responses were specific to your research topic and instruments, not simply generic statements about reliability or validity in general 6

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