A. Measurement

About Measurement

All social science research involves some measurement. It is a necessary element of any research process, since most research begins with large concepts, then translates these into specific elements used in data collection and analysis.

As an example, consider the issue of whether and how parental divorce influences children's well-being. This is a question of significant interest to researchers, policymakers, advocates, and families alike. And it is not uncommon to see newspaper headlines or television news programs that discuss how divorce is detrimental to children's well-being.

But such stories and headlines raise questions about what do we mean when we talk about children's well-being? There are a number of different dimensions that we might consider. For example, we might define well-being as the condition of the child's mental health (that is, his or her psychological well-being). Alternatively, we might focus on the child's performance in school. Or we could consider the child's economic well-being, in terms of the household assets available. Each of these is a valid dimension of children's well-being to consider through social science research, but documenting these different dimensions raises a more general point: any form of social science research involves a process in which a researcher takes a general concept or idea, specifies the dimensions that he/she wants to study, then creates measures to evaluate these dimensions. These are the processes known as conceptualization and operationalization.