This page supplies an orientation to the
controlled dictionaries of classification terms used in COSMIC's
descriptions of measures. Familiarity with these sets of terms can help
you to find what you are looking for (introduction of a new measure,
critique of an existing measure, revision of a measure, etc.) more
easily. Before listing the terms, we provide a short overview of
a few key ideas relevant to the development of scales and measures.
1. Key Ideas in the Theory of Measurement
Measurement is fundamental to advancing
knowledge in every scientifically oriented field of inquiry, including
human communication and journalism. Measurement is central to the
evaluation of theory and, more generally, to the assessment of what's
"out there" in the world: how often something is happening, or how much
of something there is. Because so much depends on the quality and
accuracy of measurement, this key activity is often controversial and
always a primary point of concern in the critique of a research study.
How good were the measures? Were they appropriate to the task? Were
they reliable? Are they powerful enough to detect distinctions at the
level required? Were they valid? Were they free of bias?
For all forms of measurement, the most
important two concepts are validity and reliability.
These are vital properties of every measurement procedure. No
measurement procedure -- quantitative or qualitative -- can be said to
be scientifically adequate if it is not valid and reliable.
Validity has several senses that are assessed
in standard ways. At its most basic, validity refers to the accuracy
and representativeness of the measurement procedure: On the face of it,
does the measurement system seem to measure what it is said to measure?
This is referred to as face validity. But beyond that, does the
measure adequately encompass all of the phenomena it is intended to
measure? Does the measure relate to other established measures as it
should (referred to as concurrent validity and discriminant
Reliability also has several senses. Most
commonly it refers to the stability of a measure over time. A measure
of television viewing that classifies people as high users should,
barring some intervention, continue to classify them as high users on
subsequent occasions. The type of reliability is assessed by repeating
the measurement at two points in time, not so close together that
respondents could easily remember their initial responses, and not so
far apart that respondents' might have grown into new people.
This type of reliability is usually assessed with a test-retest
Reliability can also refer to the extent to
which the items in a multi-question assessment consistently reflect the
quality that the test is designed to measure. This is called
internal consistency reliability.
In observational studies or content analysis
studies, reliability is assessed through analysis of the extent of
agreement between multiple coders. This form of reliability is referred
to as interjudge agreement.
All studies aiming to evaluate the validity
and reliability of a measure are affected by the quality of the study
design (e.g., by the representativeness and size of employed samples,
and by the care exercised in controlling bias).
2. Classification Terms Used in the COSMIC Database
In addition to being coded with terms from the
ComAbstracts database, records in the COSMIC database have additionally
been coded with terms from two dictionaries specific to COSMIC's
exclusive focus on measurement and research methodology to make it
easier to find materials that are pertinent to different purposes. The
first of these dictionaries comprise "MethodTerms", which are tags that
help to standardize the focus of the resource as it pertains to the
typical range of concerns in measurement and research methodology.
Thus, a search for "Sampling-Technique" will retrieve all resources in
COSMIC that report innovations or critiques in the area of methods of
The second dictionary is comprised of
"FocusTerms". These tags indicate which of the large divisions of
theorical and research activity (e.g., Health communication, Political
communication, Journalism, etc.) are pertinent for the resource.
These two dictionaries are presented below.
Dictionary of MethodTerms
Bibliometric analysis: a statistical evaluation of databases, books,
articles or other textual documents used to identify trends, research
collaborators and sources or to measure the weighted impacts of
researchers or fields of study.
Bio-physical measures: measured biological-physiological changes over a
period of time following the introduction of a stimulus.
groupings of individual pieces of data into
categories designed to reduce the number of data components and reveal
themes and patterns.
Checklist: a list of attributes of interest.
a qualitative examination undertaken to describe the
presence and number of concepts, themes and terms; or the systematic,
objective, and quantitative description of written, visual or oral
a written record of reflections or observations.
an expression of interrelated attributes or variables
fundamental to a whole (e.g., time, number, size).
immersion in a group or situation being
researched to facilitate systematic documentation of behaviors and
applying conclusions from a studied group or data set
to a larger population.
a type of questionnaire, usually using a "yes or no" response
format, that are scored to indicate the respondent's degree of belief,
feeling or attitude.
observation of some attribute that can be measured that is
taken to reflect an attribute that for some reason can't be measured
directly (e.g., taking the number of people visiting a food distribution
center as an indirect indicator of the degree of poverty in the area).
Internet: studies that incorporate research garnered from the internet
or the effects of internet use.
Interview: person-to-person direct question and answer.
Inventory: a list of items and their definitions pertinent to a
Likert-type-scale: standard scale item response categories such as
strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, and strongly agree.
Longitudinal: a study design involving the (re)collection of data at
different points in time.
Measurement-intro: introduction of a new measure.
Measurement-critique: critique of an existing measure.
Measurement-revision: revision of an existing measure, adapting it for
the particulars of a study.
Measurement-technique: a unique approach to measurement that
incorporates chosen scales and procedures.
Multi-method-research: using two or more sources of data or measures
for a research study.
Q-methodology: the systematic description of subjectivity, opinion and
qualitative aspects of human behavior using statistical techniques and
often using card sorting.
Qualitative-method: analysis of non-numerical data, such as discourse
analysis, case study, open-ended interview, participant observation and
Quantitative-method: analysis of numeric data such as statistics and
mathematical scores on questionnaires.
Reliability: reliability refers to the assessment of internal
consistency, agreement among observers, or stability of measurement over
a variety of conditions.
Sampling-technique: a specific process that determines how the subjects
within the sample are chosen (common methods of selection may include
probability, random, systematic, stratified, and convenience).
Scale: a type of composite measure that is composed of several items
that have a logical or empirical structure.
Software: a computer program, such as R, SPSS, SAS, QUANAL, WORDSTAT, etc.
that assists with the quantitative or qualitative analysis of data.
Statistical-technique: method for the statistical analysis of research
Survey: standardized questionnaire or interview used to collect data
Test-retest: measures the consistency (reliability) of results when you
repeat the same test on the same sample at different points in time.
Typology: a set of descriptive names (types) used when describing
groups of people or other units in a sample displaying characteristic
clusters of behaviors, attitudes or perceptions.
Unitization-scheme: used in content analysis to assign units of
analysis to categories.
Unobtrusive: objective observation of study subjects' behavior without
Validity: the degree of accurate measurement of the specific concept
that the researcher is attempting to measure (often assessed in terms of
predictive validity, discriminate validity, face validity, or convergent
Dictionary of FocusTerms
Related to learning, most often in the context of formal
institutional instruction. Characteristic journal: Communication
Related to spiritual experience or organized practices of religion.
Characteristic journal: Journal of Media and Religion.
Related to matters of civil regulation and enforcement, often in
the context of media regulation. Characteristic journal:
Communication, Law and Policy.
Critical theory/Cultural studies: Related to matters of
societal bias and social justice. Characteristic journal:
Critical Studies in Media Communication.
Digital and social media:
Related to the Internet as a medium and to the direct and indirect
impacts of the introduction of new hardware or software systems of
digital connectivity such as cell phones or content hubs like Facebook.
Computer Mediated Communication.
Gender: Related to differences in male/female communication
practices. Characteristic journal: Women's Studies in Communication.
Health: Related to communication practices
relevant to doctor/patient interaction, health information campaigns,
or institutional practices in health organizations. Characteristic
journal: Health Communication.
Related to the assessment of differences among communication practices
across or within national boundaries. Characteristic journal:
Journal of Intercultural Communication Research.
Related to the assessment of psychological or interactional
qualities of individuals or small social groups as they pertain to
communication. Interpersonal scholarship is the broadest and most
active area of the field, and highly cross contextual, spanning
virtually all of the field's divisions. There is no single journal that
serves as an exemplar for interpersonal research. In fact, the area is
so basic, foundational, and ubiquitous that there is no disciplinary
journal that contains the word "interpersonal" in its title, as is
commonly the case when the field spawns a significant new area of
activity and a set of journals to represent it.
Intimacy, marriage, and family:
Related to psychological and interactional processes in intimate
relationships. Characteristic journal: Journal of
Related to the journalism profession, its practices, processes,
problems, and impacts. Often focuses on newspaper journalism
but has rapidly diversified with the digital revolution. Characteristic
journal: Journalism Studies.
Language, conversation, and discourse:
Related to areas of scholarship that examine practices of written and
oral communication, such as conversation analysis and discourse
analysis. Characteristic journal: Research on Language and Social
Related to the practices of communication that seek to impact mass
audiences for any of a variety of purposes including persuasion,
entertainment, or information spread, and the evolution of relevant
technologies. Characteristic journal:
Mass Communication Research.
Organizational and business studies:
Related to communication practices in large groups, often
for-profit or non-profit organizations with a business or public service
purpose but also informal organizations. Characteristic journal:
Management Communication Quarterly.
Related to the assessment of social influence. Like the
interpersonal area, persuasion research and theory stands as a
cross-contextual foundation of the field, which means that persuasion
research is to some degree apparent in all of the field's divisions.
Like interpersonal, persuasion research is so central and so ubiquitous that there
is no disciplinary journal that contains the word "persuasion" in its
title as would be the case if persuasion were a sub-specialty of the field.
Related to political practices, processes, and institutions.
Characteristic journal: Political Communication.
Related to practices of image management, generally, but not always, for
formal organizations. Characteristic journal:
Public Relations Review.
Related to communication practices and problems as mediated across
demographic boundaries of race and ethnicity.
Characteristic journal: Howard Journal of Communication.
Radio, television, and film studies:
Research specific to these media. Characteristic journal:
Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television.
Contributions to research techiques and practices, methods of
data analysis, innovations in experimental design and the like.
Characteristic journal: Communication Methods and Measures.
Rhetoric, writing, argumentation, and public address:
Related to classical and modern rhetorical theory, criticism, and
practice, particularly as manifest in practices of writing,
public speaking, and argumentation. Characteristic journal:
Rhetoric Society Quarterly.
Related to the communication of scientific information or
the rhetorical aspects of science practices. Characteristic
journal: Science communication.
Related to the analysis and critique of displays of visual information.
Characteristic journal: Visual Communication.
Other: Other areas of research
specialty with sufficient frequency to be visible. Examples include
conflict, cognition, nonverbal, emotion, and deception.