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What Is Operational Definition?

There are six key points to include in your operational definition to ensure that your instructions are clear.

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Operational Definition



If you’re someone who is constantly working in quantifying different kinds of data, then you’re going to want to know what operational definition is.

In essence, when the phrase “operational definition” is used in terms of data, it refers to a concise and thorough definition of the measurement. To better explain this, it means that all parts of your data collection will be explicitly explained.

Operational definition can be used for collecting a wide variety of data points and it can be essential for knowing the true metrics of the data points. Operational definition can be most usefill when there is a dispute after the data is collected about whether or not all of the data points were collected correctly. It can even be used for visual data points and it can help with visual checks if multiple data collectors are arguing about any points of confusion.

Operational definition is most helpful when it is fully outlined before any of the data collection begins. Then there will be no confusion amongst team members about what data points count for what.

When Can Operational Definition Be Used?

Operational definition can be used almost anytime that data is going to be collected. It will save researchers a significant amount of time in the long run since everyone will be on the same page from the very beginning. It will also ensure that the results that come back from all of the tests  are accurate.

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It is extremely important that the operational definition be as detailed as possible because everyone has a different perception of the world, including each of your researchers. To avoid confusion, you’ll want to make the instructions as detailed as humanly possible.

There are six key points to include in your operational definition to ensure that your instructions are clear.

Steps To Create The Perfect Operational Definition


1)   Determine What The Test Is Revolving Around

Your team will need to know what characteristic is being measured.

2)   Select Your Measuring Instrument

The measuring instrument that you choose can be something physical such as a scale to measure weight or a clock to determine the amount of time that has passed. However, the measuring instrument can also be a visual test. If you’re ever going to use eyesight as the measuring tool of choice, you’ll want to express if normal eyesight will work or if a magnifying glass will be needed as well.

3)   Explicitly Explain The Testing Method

This is the part where the actual test will be explained in depth so your researchers are fully aware of what is going on. You’ll want to explain what measurements the tests are taking place in as well.

4)   State How Decisions Should Be Made

Tell all of your researchers what they should be determining at the end of the test and how they should be determining it. If this isn’t clearly defined, then the test won’t bring about accurate results.

5)   Check That Your Researchers Understand The Operational Definition

Once you have all the other metrics in place, check with your researchers to make sure that they understand all of the metrics as they should be taking place.

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