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The SAGE Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods

Michael S. Lewis-Beck & Alan Bryman & Tim Futing Liao

Pub. date: 2004 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412950589

Print ISBN: 9780761923633 | Online ISBN: 9781412950589

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Encyclopedia Entry

Conceptualization, Operationalization, and Measurement

Charles W. Mueller

Research begins with a “problem” or topic. Thinking about the problem results in identifying concepts that capture the phenomenon being studied. Concepts, or CONSTRUCTS , are ideas that represent the phenomenon. Conceptualization is the process whereby these concepts are given theoretical meaning. The process typically involves defining the concepts abstractly in theoretical terms. Describing social phenomena and testing hypotheses require that concept(s) be operationalized. Operationalization moves the researcher from the abstract level to the empirical level, where variables rather than concepts are the focus. It refers to the operations or procedures needed to measure the concept(s). Measurement is the process by which numerals (or some other labels) are attached to levels or characteristics of the variables. The actual research then involves empirically studying the variables to make statements (descriptive, relational, or causal) about the concepts. Although research may begin with only a few and sometimes only loosely defined concepts, the ...

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