Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Operationalizing Variables

Both the Luker and the Knight readings for this week have left me thinking about choosing specific terms. Luker's example about how women define rape showed just how much word choice is key to the answers a researcher will receive (p. 120-121). In Luker's example, the researcher and the respondents had very different definitions of the word "rape." That, in itself, is a rich area for research. I also wonder, though, if researchers ever do studies where they change the terms but intend to search for the same thing. For instance, I might conduct two otherwise identical studies, one of which asks if you have ever plagiarized and one of which asks if you have ever cheated on an assignment. Would the results be different (this isn't the best example but it's what I came up with - imagine another case where the results likely would be different)? If so, what does that reveal? I'd be curious to read a study like that.

Luker, K. (2008). Salsa dancing into the social sciences: Research in an age of info-glut. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I agree, this is a really sticky situation. Another issue that I have run into in my research is conducting research in multiple languages. For example, one of the articles that I am using in my sshrc proposal addresses the information seeking habits of Chinese and American people (Wu, He, & Luo, 2011). Consequently, the authors sent out two separate questionnaires, one in English, and one in Chinese. These two questionnaires were supposed to be exactly the same in all other aspects, and the authors had tested them before sending them out. However, as a speaker of several languages, I know that there are many nuances and words which often make it impossible to exactly translate a work.

    I've been thinking about this alot, because for my fake sshrc proposal, I'm proposing to conduct research with Swedish participants. What steps could I take to ensure that the meaning I am trying to get across is the same when translated into Swedish? Sometimes even people who are native speakers of more than one language have trouble directly translating between those two languages, so how do we address this problem in research?

    Wu D., He D., Bo Luo, (2012). Multilingual needs and expectations in digital libraries: A survey of academic users with different languages. The Electronic Library, 30(2), 182-197. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/02640471211221322

  3. Both sampling and framing construct conceptual frameworks which participants are directed to work within. To pluck someone out of their natural scattered existence, and direct their thoughts in the form of surveys or the use of premeditated vocabulary has inherent flaws in the search for truth and insight into social behavior.

    Having said that, I find myself, both on the side of critical assessment, and of acceptance. At this level of study, we're constantly being challenged to assess and be critical of 'what is' and yet, 'what is' has come about in most cases from the best of intensions, and a desire to improve on the past.

    Tomorrow, I along with a few others will be presenting on the biases and prejudices found it the LC and Dewey classification systems, and in putting the presentation together, while one can't help but notice the sexism, racism, and all round Eurocentric positioning of the LC and Dewey classification systems, it's hard to ignore the utility of the enterprise on structuring published information to date

    In the same vein as authority controls and subject headings, research in the form of sampling and framing direct our thoughts, and in many ways, construct the way we experience our existence.