Operational Definition and Measurement of Variables


Measurement of the variables is an integral part of research and an important aspect of research design. Unless the variables are measured in some way, we will not be able to find answers to our research questions.

For Example, To test the hypothesis that workforce diversity affects organizational effectiveness we have to measure workforce diversity and organizational effectiveness.

Measurement is the assignment of numbers or other symbols to characteristics (or attributes) of objects according to a pre-specified set of rules.

Objects include persons, strategic business units, companies, countries, bicycles, elephants, kitchen appliances, restaurants, shampoo, yogurt, and so on.

Examples of characteristics of objects are achievement motivation, organizational effectiveness, shopping enjoyment, length, weight, ethnic diversity, service quality, conditioning effects, and taste.

It is important that you realize that you cannot measure objects (for instance, a company); you measure characteristics or attributes of objects (for instance, the organizational effectiveness of a company).

To be able to measure you need an object and attributes of the object, but you also need a judge. A judge is someone who has the necessary knowledge and skills to assess “the quality” of something, such as the taste of yogurt, the arousal‐seeking tendency of stockbrokers, or the communication skills of students.

In many cases the object and the judge are the same person. For instance, if you want to measure the gender (the attribute) of your employees (the objects), or the shopping enjoyment (the attribute) of women (the objects), you can simply ask the objects (employees and women respectively) to provide you with the necessary details via a self‐administered questionnaire.


Operationalizing is done by looking at the behavioral dimensions, facets, or properties denoted by the concept. These are then translated into observable and measurable elements so as to develop an index of measurement of the concept.

Operationalizing a concept involves a series of steps. The first step is to come up with a definition of the construct that you want to measure. Then, it is necessary to think about the content of the measure; that is, an instrument (one or more items or questions) that actually measures the concept that one wants to measure has to be developed.

Subsequently, a response format (for instance, a seven‐point rating scale with end‐points anchored by “strongly disagree” and “strongly agree”) is needed, and, finally, the validity and reliability of the measurement scale has to be assessed.

Sekaran, U., & Bougie, R. (2019). Research methods for business: A skill building approach. john wiley & sons.

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