Measurement scales in research

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In this mysterious world, there are different types of people. Due to individual differences, all people differ in terms of their way of thinking, beliefs, etc.

People’s attitudes toward the same object may vary. For example, we want to know about the job satisfaction of an employee. One employee’s attitude toward job satisfaction may be significantly different from other employees.

In research, researchers need to measure the attitude to get the result to test a hypothesis.

Method of selecting measurement scales in research

A natural question arises; “Which one is most appropriate” As in the selection of a basic research design, there is no single best answer for all research projects.

The answer to this question is relative, and the choice of scale will depend on the nature of the attitudinal object to be measured. The manager’s problem definition and the backward and forward linkages to choices already made (for example, telephone survey versus mail survey).

However, several questions will help focus the choice of a measurement scale:

  • Is a ranking, sorting, rating, or choice technique best?
  • Should a monadic or a comparative scale be used?
  • What type of category labels, if any, will be used for the rating scale?
  • How many scale categories are needed to measure?
  • Should a balanced or unbalanced rating scale be chosen?
  • Should a scale that forces a choice among predetermined options be used?
  • Should a single measure or an index measure be used?

We will discuss each of these issues.

Ranking, Sorting, Rating, or Choice Technique:

The decision of whether to used ranking sorting, rating, or a choice technique is determined largely by the problem definition and especially by the type of statistical analysis desired. For example, ranking provides only ordinal data, limiting the statistical techniques that may be used.

Monadic or Comparative Scale:

If the scale to be used is not a ratio scale, the researcher must decide whether to include a standard of comparison in the verbal portion of the scale. Consider the following rating scale:

Now that you’ve had your automobile for about one year, please tell us how stateside you are with its engine power and pickup.

Completely Dissatisfied Somewhat Satisfied Satisfied Completely Satisfied

This is a monadic rating scale because it asked about a single concept (the brand of the automobile the individual actually purchased) in isolation.

The respondent is to rate a concept, such as a specific amount of responsibility or authority, in comparison with a benchmark perhaps another similar concept- explicitly used as a frame of reference.

In many cases, the comparative rating scale presents an ideal situation as a reference point for comparison with the actual situation.

For example: Please indicate how the amount of authority in your present position compares with the amount of authority that would be ideal for this position.

Too much | About Right | To little

What type of category labels, if any:

We have discussed verbal labels, numerical labels, and unlisted choices. Many rating scales have verbal labels for repines categories because researchers believe the respondents better understand the response positions.

How many scale categories or response positions:

The original developmental research on the semantic differential indicated that five to eight-point is optimal. However, the researcher must determine the number of meaningful positions that are best for the specific project.

This issue of identifying how many meaningful distinctions respondents can practically make is basically a matter of sensitivity. But at ate operational rather than the conceptual level.

Balanced or Unbalanced Rating Scale:

The fixed alternative format may be balanced or unbalanced. For example, the following question, which asks about parent-child decisions in relation to television program watching is a balanced rating scale:

Who decides which television programs your children watch?
The child decides all of the time.
The child decides most of the time.
Child and parent decide together.
The parent decides most of the time.
The parent decides all of the time.

This scale is balanced because a neutral point of indifference is at the center of the scale. Unbalanced rating scales may be used when responses are expected to be distributed at one end of the scale. Unbalanced scales, such as the following one, may eliminate this type of “end piling”



Dissatisfied Somewhat Satisfied Satisfied Completely Satisfied

Notice that there are three “satisfied” responses and only two “dissatisfied” responses above. The choice of a balanced or unbalanced scale generally depends on the nature of the concept. Or, the researcher’s knowledge about attitudes toward the stimulus to be measured.

Use a scale that forces a choice among predetermined options:

In many situations, a respondent has not formed an attitude toward the concept being studied and simply cannot provide an answer.

If a forced-choice rating scale compels the respondent to answer, the response is merely a function of the question. If answers are not forced, the midpoint of the scale may be used by the respondent to indicate unawareness as well as indifference.

If many respondents in the sample are expected to be unaware of the attitudinal object under investigation. This problem may be eliminated by using a non-forced-choice scale that provides a “no option” category.

Single measure or an index measure:

Whether to use a single measure or an index measure depends on the complexity of the issue to be investigated. The number of dimensions the issue contains, and whether individual attributes of the stimulus are part of a holistic attitude or are seen as separate items.

Very simple concepts that do not vary from context to context can be measured by single items. However, most psychological concepts are more complex and require multiple-item measurement.

Additionally, multiple-item measures are easier to for construct validity. The researcher’s conceptual definition will be helpful in making this choice.

The researcher has many scaling options. Generally, the choice is influenced by plans for the later stages of the research project. Again, problem definition becomes a determining factor influencing the research design.

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