A. Measurement


Exercise 1

Over the past few years, there have been a number of recent articles in the press about alcohol consumption among college students. One particular form of alcohol use that has received a substantial amount of attention recently is the phenomenon of "binge drinking." According to a medical doctor who has published several studies on the topic, "each year, on campuses throughout our country, binge drinking causes numerous student deaths, thousands more injuries, and a host of other problems."

These assertions about its consequences aside, the issue raises the question of what, exactly, is binge drinking. Each of us probably has some general idea of what is meant by the phrase; however, we need to be much more specific about what is meant by "binge drinking" if we are to study it as a phenomenon in the social world.

This leads us to your task. You are to develop a set of questions that you can use to assess how much binge drinking there is among undergraduates at Enormous State University (ESU). To do so, you must attend to two tasks - the tasks of conceptualization and operationalization:

First, you must come up with a definition of binge drinking. What is binge drinking? What distinguishes it from other forms of alcohol consumption? Second, you must develop a set of questions to measure how much binge drinking there is among current undergraduates of ESU. Develop a set of fairly specific questions that incorporate elements of your definition (questions like "Do you binge drink?" won't cut it.)

Exercise 2

Please read this four-page article from The New Yorker entitled "Open Season" by Robert Sapolsky.

Though the article is written by a non-social scientist (Sapolsky is actually a neurobiologist at Stanford) for a non-professional audience, he presents a very approachable and thorough account of how he examined a social issue of interest to him. Moreover, the research question he examines is an interesting one and he goes about collecting evidence to examine this question in an interesting way. Please read the article, then answer the following questions:

How did Sapolsky conceptualize the primary concept of interest to him? How did he operationalize this concept? List all areas that are appropriate.

There are many other ways to operationalize this concept. Develop another set of questions for one of the realms Sapolsky operationalizes.