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The operationalization or making measurable defines how a theoretical construct (e.g. gravity , intelligence or justice ) is to be made observable and measurable . It is of great importance in all empirically working sciences , as it is the basis for being able to carry out measurements. A suitable operationalization is important, for example when testing hypotheses .

When a construct is operationalized, it is determined which measuring instrument (so-called indicator, e.g. physical measuring device , questionnaire ) is used to quantify the various characteristics of the variable of interest . In addition to the selected indicator (also called measured variable ), the survey method, the survey instrument and, in particular, the parts with which the empirical information is to be obtained must be described for the operationalization. Finally, the procedure has to be explained how the information is prepared for the actual analysis. The operationalization of a theoretical construct also includes the question of what level of measurement the indicators used should have.


“The processing speed of the human brain can a. Operationalization could be a psychological experiment in which a test person is placed in front of a device that consists of a single lamp and a pressure switch. The lamp and push button are connected to a computer stopwatch that starts when the lamp lights up and stops when the subject pushes the switch. This is the description of the survey instrument.

The switch is designed in such a way that it stops the stopwatch at the moment when the subject's finger touches the switch. Accordingly, the test person does not have to overcome any resistance in order to trigger the switch (description of the parts of the instrument that are used to obtain the information).

The test person is given the task of pressing the switch as soon as the lamp lights up. So much for the description of the survey method.

In addition to the data from the stopwatch, further socio-demographic data of the test persons can be recorded and stored in the computer (preparation of the information for the actual analysis).

Quality criteria

The result of an empirical investigation can essentially depend on the choice of operationalization. Therefore, indicators or operationalizations in science must meet three essential quality criteria:

Example: You will find a strong connection between the distance between the ears and the intelligence if you operationalize intelligence by the head circumference. A critic could object to this result that the head circumference is not a valid measure of intelligence (what is measured is not what should be measured). If the experimenter also used a tape measure made of elastic rubber, the reliability would also have to be criticized (two measurements give different results). In addition, if it has not been recorded where the tape measure is to be placed around the person's head and another researcher cannot understand the measurement himself, then there is no objectivity (intersubjective traceability).

When considering validity, reliability is a prerequisite: If the measurement is not reliable in the first place, it certainly cannot measure what is to be measured. A validity coefficient cannot be larger than the square root of the reliability coefficient.

Importance in education

Operationalization in pedagogy describes the achievement of an abstract learning goal while observing specific behavior. Their mastery should be achieved in a learning process.

See also


Individual evidence

  1. Duden: Operationalisierung: Spelling, Meaning, Definition . Website duden.de. Retrieved January 27, 2015.