Reliable and Valid Survey Instruments

A reliable survey instrument is consistent; a valid one is accurate. For example, an instrument is reliable if each time you use it (and assuming no intervention), you get the same information. Reliability, or the consistency of information gathered by a survey, can be seriously imperiled by poorly worded and imprecise questions and directions. If an instrument is unreliable, it is also invalid, because you cannot obtain accurate findings with inconsistent data. A valid survey instrument serves the purpose it is intended to serve and provides correct information. For example, if a survey's aim is to find out about mental health, the results should be consistent with other measures of mental health and inconsistent with measures of mental instability. A valid instrument is always reliable, too. A reliable survey instrument is one that is relatively free of “measurement error,” in which individuals’ obtained scores are different from their true scores, ...

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