Operationalizations & Alternative Rival Hypotheses

Last week’s scope & methods notes described a political science research design. This week first jumps back by looking at the correct way to operationalizeze variables, and then goes back even further into the literature review, discussinlternativelternative rival hypotheses.

This class is very much a “nuts and bolts” introduction to political science. The last literature review and research design I wrote, for international politics, was written without the benefit of knowing how to do it “right.” Next time, I will know what to do. This class is well worth it.

And now, the boring notes…

Operationalizing Variables

– define a variable in a way that is empirically measurable
– easiest mistake to make
– example: how do you determine democracy-ness?

Whenever you measure, your measure must be
– exhaustive: all categories should sum to 100%
– exclusive: overlap should be 0%

Levels of Measurement (from lowest to highest)
rule of thumb: measure at highest (level you can
– interval better than ordinal better than nominal
– simple categorizations
– just exhaustive and mutually exclusive
– examples: sex, religion, etc.
– categories that can be logically ranked
– examples: education level (less than hs, hs, some college, …. )
– categories with meaningful standard distances between attributes
– also includes Ratios, where there is an absolute zero
– examples: age, heights
– non-ratio example: net income

Single Indicators v. Multiple Indicators
– Single Indicator: measuring income with “income”
– Multiple Indicators: measuring voter participation with voting in federal, state, and local elections

Measurement Error
– the mismatch between the measurement of the concept and the concept
– two kinds of measurement error
— systematic errors:
— errors introduced that are consistent and constant across cases
— example: if questions are difficult to answer, then the survey will be biased toward intelligent people
— relatively easy to find
— random errors:
— “any random error introduced into the model for any other reason”
— “white noise”
— example: someone mistypes a number into a computer

Validity and Reliability
– validity
— you are measuring what you think you are measuring
— systematic measurement errors lead to invalidity
— incorrect operationalizations also cause invalidity
– reliability
— getting the same results consistently
— reproducibility

Alternate Rival Hypothesis

“A hypothesis is an alternative rival hypothesis if it is ‘mutually exclusive’ to the original hypothesis.” (Mannheim and Rich)
– may be better to say “sheds reasonable doubt”

include, or at least, acknowledge, alternative rival hypotheses in the research design

– compare your group to a control group
– make sure the comparison is between similar group (no hidden variables)
– no end to all possible ARHs
– a research design may help discover ARHs
– should control the independent variable of the ARH to prove the hypothesis

Moonjets, Muslim Protest Babes, and more


Crazy props to the tdaxp reader who sent me this:

The lander descended the final few feet to the surface of the moon. There was a thump heard within the lander and then touchdown was announced to Mission Control. Buzz Aldrin slumped at the controls, a thin trickle of blood dribbling from the bullet hole in his temple. Neil Armstrong looked at the lunar module pilot one last time before tightening the seals on his helmet.

“I’m sorry, old friend.”

He closed Aldrin’s eyes with an awkward sweep of his gloved hand. The lunar module popped with escaping air and Armstrong carefully descended the ladder.

“Armstrong, you forgot the line.” The voice came over his headset.

Armstrong turned to the camera mounted on the lunar module to make sure he was perfectly centered in the frame. Then he unfurled the flag and drove it into the soil of the moon. A gasp went up at Mission Control.

“I claim this world and all I survey for the empire of Armstrong.”

A perfectly-timed formation of MoonJets passed overhead trailing smoke. The war for the moon had begun.

Much more below the fold….

The moonjet photo is from some Japanese blog.

In other blog news, Catholicgauze rails against evil maps. And evil geography. (Courtesy the German Propaganda Archive. )

Against the clear will of the people, in the early 1980s the most aggressive circles of Imperialism in the USA, West Germany and other NATO lands began a course of confrontation and armament. In the USA alone 199 billion dollars were spent on arms in 1982. In the 1985-1986 fiscal year the money designated for arms rose to 302.5 billion dollars.


(Compare that map with this American map of Eurasia Or even NATO maps of potential Soviet attacks…)

Elsewhere, my series on Liberal Education (I, II, III, and IV) has sparked some posts on the blogosphere. Mark of ZenPundit mentioned it twice (but his blogspot is having problems — even worse than blogspirit’s comments snafu). Meanwhile, Curtis wrote about it thrice (I, II, III). Still no mention on Amendment IX though…

Chirol from Coming Anarchy looks at the Muslim cartoon controversy (I, II) .


As the guy is supposed to me Mohammed, I assume the women are his beloved daughter Fatima and his dear wife Aisha. Fatima later died in a mysterious door accident, and her family went on to have had some trouble with other Muslims.

Lifting our hearts, Marc shows off anti-Danish Muslim protest babes.


Though I prefer the far-sexier Muslim Sisterhood. Or even asian sirens, brought to tdaxp‘s attention by an otherwise respectable blogger. Asian Sirens also look at the Mohammed cartoons, so I guess they’re kinda respectable.

Until Tom mentioned it, I was barely aware of the bruhaha. I learned a bunch from The Smoking Gun.

From my home state, Academic diversity may come to the universities of South Dakota, while Tom Daschle runs to Iowa (and Washington?).

I saw The Rutles in All You Need is Cash two days ago. For a movie combining SNL and Monty Python, it was OK. Not great. But good enough for me to queue the sequel.

Rx of thepartyparty has a new song up: MLK (rise again). Not as good as Happy Christmas & a Whole Lotta Love, but still pretty good.

Well, last time I mentioned a new Rx song I teased a future tdaxp feature, so I will conclude by doing that again: this. this.