Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Conceptual and Operational Variable

Several quantitative studies seek to determine the cause of a particular phenomenon. Does a certain procedure cause stress? Does smoking cause lung cancer? The presumed cause is called the independent variable, and the presumed effect is called the dependent variable. Scientists and researchers use independent variables to determine certain traits or phenomena. The independent variable is independent of other variables. There are two ways to define variables – conceptually and operationally. 

Conceptual Variable

A conceptual variable is any construct/idea/variable that we can conceptualize but cannot completely measure. The conceptual definition is abstract, articulated in words, that facilitates understanding. They are the sort of definitions we see in dictionaries, and normally use them in everyday conversations to tell people what some term or phrase means. For example, if you look up the word anxiety in a dictionary, what does it say? It would probably say anxiety is a feeling of worry or nervousness or how someone would act if they’re anxious. Conceptual meanings are based on theoretical formulations, on a firm understanding of relevant literature, or on researchers’ clinical experience. It is something a researcher may conceptualize prior to performing a study. It is important in hypothesis building process.

Operational Variable

On the contrary, operational variable describes how the variable is being measured for a particular study. The operational definition can be vastly different among studies. An operational definition does not give any precise instructions as to what the fundamental characteristics of a concept are, but also describes how to define and measure a specific variable as it is used in your study. In other words, an operational definition is based on the observational characteristics of an object or phenomenon and determines what to do in order to identify these characteristics. An operational definition of a variable is the set of procedures used to measure or manipulate the variable. It is a clear, concise detailed definition of a measure when applied to data collection.

Difference between Conceptual and Operational Variable

Definition

 – There are different ways to define variables while creating a research study. The conceptual definition is abstract, articulated in words, that facilitates understanding. They are the sort of definitions we see in dictionaries, and normally use them in everyday conversations. An operational definition, on the contrary, is based on the observational characteristics of an object or phenomenon and determines what to do in order to identify these characteristics. Researchers use conceptual definitions to create operational definitions.

Specificity 

– A conceptual definition cannot be true or false, but it may or may not be useful for communication. A conceptual definition is subject to different interpretations, so it should be stated in clear and unequivocal terms to avoid different interpretations. For example, there could be two interpretations to how to define a drug – as medicinal or narcotic. An operational definition, on the other hand, gives precise indications about how to observe or even measure the characteristics under study. It can be very specific to the extent that they can be measured and reported without misinterpretation.

Measurability 

– Conceptual meanings are based on theoretical formulations, on a firm understanding of relevant literature, or on researchers’ clinical experience. Conceptual variables are often expressed in theoretical, qualitative or subjective terms. These are something that can be conceptualized but cannot be completely measured. Operational definition is a process which defines how a concept or variable is observed or measured. Conceptual variables are about abstract concepts whereas operational variables are concrete measures or procedures used to measure the concept in practice.

Conceptual Variable vs. Operational Variable: Comparison Chart

Summary

A conceptual definition provides the theoretical meaning of a variable and is often derived from a researcher’s definition of a related concept. The conceptual definition is abstract, articulated in words, that facilitates understanding but cannot be measured completely. Conceptual variables are often expressed in theoretical, qualitative or subjective terms. An operational definition, on the contrary, is derived from a set of procedures that indicate the existence or degree of existence of a variable. Operational definitions need to be independent of time and setting so that variables can be investigated at different times using the same operational definitions.

What are the similarities between conceptual and operational variable?

A conceptual definition describes what the concept means, while an operational definition describes how to measure it.

What is the difference between conceptual and operational variables?

Conceptual variables are often expressed in theoretical, qualitative or subjective terms whereas An operational definition can be very specific to the extent that they can be measured and reported without misinterpretation.

What is an operational variable?

An operational definition of a variable is the set of procedures used to measure or manipulate the variable. It specifies a way an idea can be measured and is much more concrete.

What are conceptual variables?

Conceptual variables represent some abstract construct or a vague idea or entity that you wish to measure. These are something you can conceptualize but cannot completely measure.

What is operational and conceptual?

Conceptual definition says what the concept means, while an operational definition says how to measure it.

What is an example of conceptual?

Conceptual meanings are based on theoretical formulations, on a firm understanding of relevant literature, or on researchers’ clinical experience. For example, in a study of anxiety, a conceptual definition describes how someone would act if they’re anxious. An operational definition describes how it would be measured.


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References :


[0]Polit, Denise F., et al. Canadian Essentials of Nursing Research. Pennsylvania, United States: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2010. Print

[1]Barnard, Harvey Russell. Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. California, United States: SAGE Publications, 2000. Print

[2]Polit, Denise F. and Cheryl Tatano Beck. Nursing Research: Principles and Methods. Pennsylvania, United States: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2004. Print

[3]Bless, Claire, et al. Fundamentals of Social Research Methods: An African Perspective. Cape Town, South Africa: Juta and Company Ltd, 2006. Print

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