operational definition

operational definition, operationalization
The transformation of an abstract, theoretical concept into something concrete, observable, and measurable in an empirical research project. Operational definitions are pragmatic and realistic indicators of more diffuse notions. For example, one way of operationalizing the concept of social class might be to ask people what type of job they do, and code their replies as either ‘working class’ or ‘middle class’. An alternative operationalization of the same concept would be to ask respondents to which class (if any) they felt they belonged. As will be seen from this example, operational definitions are crucial to the process of measurement , and are often the most controversial aspect of any research design.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

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