Practice Exercises

1. Now it’s time to try your hand at operationalization with survey-based measures. Formulate a few fixed -choice questions to measure variables pertaining to the concepts you researched for the discussion questions, such feeling poor or perceptions of the level of substance abuse in your community. Arrange to interview one or two other students with the questions you have developed. Ask one fixed-choice question at a time, record your interviewee’s answer, and then probe for additional comments and clarifications. Your goal is to discover how respondents understand the meaning of the concept you used in the question and what additional issues shape their response to it.

       When you have finished the interviews, analyze your experience: Did the interviewees interpret the fixed-choice questions and response choices as you intended? Did you learn more about the concepts you were working on? Should your conceptual definition be refined? Should the questions be rewritten, or would more fixed-choice questions be necessary to capture adequately the variation among respondents?

2. Now, try index construction. You might begin with some of the questions you wrote for Practice Exercise 1. Try to write about four or five fixed-choice questions that each measure the same concept. Write each question so that it has the same response choices. Now, conduct a literature search to identify an index that another researcher used to measure your concept or a similar concept. Compare your index to the published index. Which seems preferable to you? Why?

3. Develop a plan for evaluating the validity of a measure. Your instructor will give you a copy of a questionnaire actually used in a study. Pick one question, and define the concept that you believe it is intended to measure. Then develop a construct validation strategy involving other measures in the questionnaire that you think should be related to the question of interest—if it measures what you think it measures.

4. What are some of the research questions you could attempt to answer with the available statistical data? Check out the U.S. Census Bureau website ( and then review the Surveys/Programs descriptions. List five questions you could explore with data from the census or one of its surveys. Identify six variables implied by these research questions that you could operationalize with the available data. What are the three factors that might influence variation in these measures, other than the phenomenon of interest? (Hint: Consider how the data are collected.)

5. Complete the Interactive Exercise for Chapter 4.

6. Review the Methods section of two of the research articles that you find on this site. Write a short summary of the concepts and measures used in these studies. Which article provides clearer definitions of the major concepts? Does either article discuss possible weaknesses in measurement procedures?