# How to Operationalize Variables? (+5 Additional FAQs)

In this brief article, we’ll describe “Operationalize Variables”, what are independent and dependent variables, what are operationalizing variables and the importance of operationalization.

## OPERATIONALIZE VARIABLES:

Operational Variables or Operationalizing variables refer to how one will define and measure a specific variable as it is used in the study.

Operationalization refers to the process of strictly defining variables into measurable factors.

The process defines fuzzy concepts and allows them to be measured, empirically and quantitatively.

## WHAT ARE INDEPENDENT AND DEPENDENT VARIABLES?

Variables are given special names in experimental investigations, one is known as the dependent variable and the other one is known as the independent variable.

The dependent variable is the variable which is being tested and measured in an experiment or study and is ‘dependent’ on the independent variable

The independent variable, on the other hand, is the variable that the experimenter changes or controls and is assumed to have a direct effect on the dependent variable.

In a study or an experiment, the researcher looks for the possible effect on the dependent variable that might be possible by changing the independent variable

## OPERATIONALIZING VARIABLES:

While conducting psychological research or any other research, it is very important to clearly define what one means by both the independent and dependent variables.

For example, if one is concerned with the effect of malnutrition on the intelligence of adolescents, then he needs to be very clear that what he means by different terms.

In this case, he must state that he means by the terms “malnutrition” and “intelligence” as he will be studying them.

Therefore, one could say that “malnutrition” is operationally defined in the study as ‘the children or adolescents who have been suffering from malnutrition’ and “intelligence” is operationally defined as the ‘IQ level administered on those children’.

Another example can be, the hypothesis “Young participants will have significantly have better memories than the older participants” is not operationalized.

As it is not easy to define “young”, “old” and “memory”. “Participants aged between 16-30 are more likely to recall significantly more nouns from a list of twenty than participants aged between 55-70” is operationalized.

The main point here is that one should be clear enough with what he means by the terms as they were studied and measured in the experiment or study.

If it is not clear then it would be very difficult to compare the findings of different studies into the same behavior.

Operationalization also helps other researchers to replicate a study and check for reliability other than making a clear and objective definition of complex variables.

## THE IMPORTANCE OF OPERATIONALIZATION:

Artificial constructs in which we define variables are similar to the concepts such as seconds, kilograms and centigrade.

A researcher must justify and identify their scale of scientific measurement. Thus, Operationalization defines the exact measuring method used, and also allows other scientists to follow exactly the same methodology.

One prominent example of the dangers of non-operationalization is the failure of the Mars Climate Orbiter.

This expensive satellite was lost, somewhere above Mars, and therefore the mission completely failed.

Then a subsequent investigation found that the engineers at the sub-contractor, Lockheed, had used imperial units instead of metric units of force.

A failure in operationalization meant that the units used during the construction and simulation were not standardized and most importantly the engineers were not clear with what they were using among each other, the US engineers used pound-force, the others and software designers used metric Newtons.

This is the clear cut example of not being clear with the variables to be used in the experiment.

This had led to a huge error in the thrust calculations, and the spacecraft ended up in a lower orbit around Mars and burned up from atmospheric friction.

This failure in operationalization did cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and years of planning and construction were wasted.

## CONCLUSION:

In this blog, we’ve described “Operationalize Variables”, what are independent and dependent variables, what are operationalizing variables and the importance of operationalization.

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## FAQ:

### What does operationalize a variable mean?

Operationalize a variable means that all relevant variables must be defined so that it can be measured and/or expressed quantitatively or qualitatively.

### What is the meaning of operationalization in research?

Operationalization in research means that a concept is measured, observed, or manipulated within a particular study.

### What is an example of operationalization?

An example of operationalization is, if one is concerned with the effect of malnutrition on the intelligence of adolescents, then he needs to be very clear that what he means by different terms.

In this case, he must state that he means by the terms “malnutrition” and “intelligence” as he will be studying them.

Therefore, one could say that “malnutrition” is operationally defined in the study as ‘the children or adolescents who have been suffering from malnutrition’ and “intelligence” is operationally defined as the ‘IQ level administered on those children’.

### What is conceptualization and operationalization in research?

Conceptualization means defining what an abstract concept means while Operationalization in research means that a concept is measured, observed, or manipulated within a particular study.

### Why is it important to operationalize variables?

It is important to operationalize variables because if one will not be clear enough with what he means by the terms as they are studying and measuring in the experiment or study then it would be very difficult to compare the findings of different studies into the same behavior.

Operationalization also helps other researchers to replicate a study and check for reliability other than making a clear and objective definition of complex variables.

## CITATIONS:

Martyn Shuttleworth (Jan 17, 2008). Operationalization. explorable.com/operationalization

simplypsychology.org