Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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core definition

A scale is a measurement device and scaling is the process of assigning numerical values to objects of study.

explanatory context

In the social sciences such objects of study include characteristics of individuals, stimulii to behaviour, responses to questions, etc.

An appropriate measurement scale (or level of measurement) must be used to reflect the kind of data being used. The basic assumption of any attempt at scaling is that the objects being scaled are characterised some kind of underlying continuum. Such continua may have a single dimension (unidimensional) or several dimensions (multidimensional).

Some commentators regard scaling as referring to the activity of assigning values only where the underlying continua is latent, that is, it is postulated and is not directly observable. So the measurement of time using a chronometer would not be an example of scaling, in this sense.

Scaling normally refers to ordered scales and would not then include simple categorisation of data into nominal classes as no continuum is implied in such cases (or else the data would presumabaly be ordinal).

Attitude measurement
is an attempt to scale attitudes.

analytical review

associated issues


related areas

See also

attitude measurement

measurement scale


copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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