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The Measure of a Measure

The Measure of a Measure

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Published by terrabyte
If you can measure a phenomenon, you can analyze the phenomenon. But if you don’t measure the phenomenon accurately and precisely, you won’t be able to analyze the phenomenon accurately and precisely.
If you can measure a phenomenon, you can analyze the phenomenon. But if you don’t measure the phenomenon accurately and precisely, you won’t be able to analyze the phenomenon accurately and precisely.

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Published by: terrabyte on Sep 13, 2010
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09/12/2010

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T
HE
M
EASURE OF A
M
EASURE
 
If you can measure a phenomenon, you can analyze the phenomenon. But if you don
’t measure
the phenomenon accurately and precisely, you won
’t be able to analyze the phenomenon
accurately and precisely. So in planning a statistical analysis, once you have specific conceptsyou want to explore you
’ll need to
identify ways the concepts could be measured.Start with conventional measures, the oneseveryone would recognize and know what youdid to determine. Then, consider whether thereare any other ways to measure the conceptdirectly. From there, establish whether there areany indirect measures or surrogates that couldbe used in lieu of a direct measurement. Finally,if there are no other options, explore whether itwould be feasible to develop a new measurebased on theory. Keep in mind that developing anew measure or a new scale of measurement ismore difficult for the experimenter and lessunderstandable for reviewers than using anestablished measure. Say, for example, that youwanted to assess the taste of various sources of drinking water. You might use standard laboratory analysis procedures to test water samples forspecific ions known to affect taste, like iron and sulfate. These would be direct measures of waterquality. An example of an indirect measure would be total dissolved solids, a general measure of water quality that responds to many dissolved ions besides iron and sulfate. An example of asurrogate measure would
 be the water’s electrical conductivity, which is positively correlated to
the quantity of dissolved ions in the water. Electrical conductivity is easier and less expensive tomeasure than dissolved solids, which is easier and less expensive to measure than specificanalytes like iron and sulfate. Developing a new measure based on theory might also be useful.Sometimes it
’s beneficial to think out of the box. That’s how sabermetrics got started.
So forexample, you might use professional taste testers to judge the tastes of the waters. Or, moresimply, you might conduct comparison surveys of untrained individuals. Clearly, what youmeasure and how you measure it will have a great influence on your findings.Of the possible measures you identify, select scales of measurement and consider how difficult itwould be to generate accurate and precise data. Measurement bias and variability are introduced
into a data value by the very process of generating the data value. It’s like tuning an analog radio.Turn the tuning dial a bit off the station and you hear more static. That’s more varia
nce in the
station’s signal.
Every measurement can be thought of consisting of three elements:
Benchmark
 
 – 
The accepted standard against which a data value is made. Scientificinstruments, meters, rulers, scales, comparison charts, and survey question responseoptions are all examples of measurement benchmarks.
Processes
 
 – 
Repetitive activities that are conducted as part of generating a data value.Equipment calibration, measurement procedures, and survey interview scripts are allexamples of measurement processes.
 All cats are drawn to scale.
 
 
Judgments
 
 – 
Decisions made by the individual to create the data value. Examples of measurement judgments include reading instrument scales, making comparisons to visualscales, and recording survey responses.Consider the examples of data types shown in the following table. For any particular data type,all three of these elements change over time. Benchmarks change when new measurementtechnologies are developed or existing meters, gauges and other devices become more accurateand precise. Standardized tests change to safeguard the secrecy of questions. Likewise, processeschange over time to improve consistency and to accommodate new benchmarks. Judgmentsimprove when data collectors are trained and gain work experience. Such changes can createproblems when historical and current data are combined because variance differencesattributable to evolving measurement systems can produce misleading statistics.
 
 Examples of Components of Data Measurements.
Data Type ExamplesMeasurementDevicesComponents of Data MeasurementBenchmark Process Judgment
   B  u  s   i  n  e  s  s
Money
Income, ExpensesPersonalObservationBusiness definitions andconventionsValue of money variesinternationally and over timeRecognition of denominations,interpretation of business definitions
Manufacturing
Defect RatePersonalObservationEngineering specificationsSelection and measurement of productsComparison of products tospecifications
   C   h  e  m   i  s   t  r  y
Bench Analysis
Analyses involvingglassware andmanual proceduresSeparations,calorimetry,titrations, etc.Standard procedure for analysisProcess of preparing sampleand following procedureInterpretation of output and possiblechemical interactions
Quantitative Analysis
Analyses involvinginstrumentationSpectroscopy,crystallography,microscopy, etc
.
 Instrumentation standards (e.g.,chromatograph retention times)Process of preparing sample,instrument calibration andusageInterpretation of output and possiblechemical interactions
   E  a  r   t   h   S  c   i  e  n  c  e  s
Hydrology
Pump discharge,stream flowFlow meter, weir,bucket andstopwatchAccuracy of measurementdevice,Usage and calibration of deviceReading and recording increments onmeasurement devices
Geology
Rock unitdescription, soil androck classificationMeasuring tapegeologic compass,references forclassificationDescriptions of rock formationsand lithologic and soilclassification proceduresMaking observations forclassification procedure,calibration and use of devicesReading and recording increments onmeasurement devices, comparison of observations to classificationparameters
Meteorology
Wind speed,temperature,barometric pressure,Anemometer,thermometer,barometer,Instrumentation standardsCorrect placement, usage andcalibration of instrumentsReading and recording increments onmeasurement devices
   L   i   f  e   S  c   i  e  n  c  e  s
Biology
Species Counts,Habitat MapsObservation of species/habitatsTechnical descriptions of species/habitatsProcess of comparingobservation to descriptionIdentification of specific species andhabitats
Pharmacology
Drug effectivenessPersonal or labobservation of drug effects
 
Comparison to a reference drugor placebo control groupProcesses of instructingpatients and administeringdrugsPatient/Doctor assessment of drugeffects, or analysis of samples frompatient
Epidemiology
Disease clustersPersonalobservation of community health
 
National statistics on diseaseratesCompiling individual patienthistories or selecting localstatistics on disease ratesInterpretation of statistics fromdiffering sources
   S  o  c   i  a   l   S  c   i  e  n  c  e  s
Sociology
Population,Socioeconomic ClassCensus and surveydataDescription of data and datacollection proceduresObtaining data from websitesand publications andconverting to electronic formInterpreting data based on descriptionof collection process
Psychology
Opinion andPreference SurveysSurveysResponse scales defined byexperimenterHow the survey questions areaskedConstruction of survey (what questions,what order, etc.)

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