Learning Module 2. Identifying and Operationalizing Variables

Directions: For each research topic,

A] State the null hypothesis, nondirectional hypothesis and the directional hypothesis


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B] identify each dependent and independent variable (there are multiple dependent and independent for each variable)

C] Develop the topic by operationalizing variables. Remember operationalize means specifically stating how you define and measure EACH variable. Use references to identify measurement instruments. This requires online research and group discussion. Cite the source in Reference portion,

D] label and number each answer for full credit.

Partial examples of operationalizing.

Example 1. Suppose a researcher is measuring the variable intelligence; it must first be defined as abstract thought, communication, reasoning, learning, or planning and problem solving or some combination of these qualities. Then the researcher selects a reliable and valid yardstick to measure it e.g.,Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children or some other.

Example 2. A researcher decides to measures student satisfaction with meals served in the school cafeteria. The researcher must define identify dependent and independent variable:

*Independent: meal satisfaction –

-Definition of meal satisfaction – Is it likeability of the food, visual presentation, choice, the amount offered, range of selection, …. A meal also may be defined by its nutrients or a amount of food

-Measurement – There might find a commercial survey that meets the definition or the researcher create a new Likert scale. Either one used after students eat lunch or maybe develop interview questions for a focus group.

*Dependent: define cafeteria– what about the variable will be considered and measured? Its environment , size, kind of tables, whether seats are assigned or free choice, colors, music, …..

Example 3: This study examines differences between student behavior in schools that differ in lunchroom seating practices.

* Directional hypothesis might be: Lunchroom behaviors in schools that encourage student self-selected seating have fewer disciplinary problems than schools that have assigned seating.

The researcher could have selected any hypothesis and so can you.

To operationalize this study, “disciplinary problems, types of schools (size, community type, grade level(s) included, etc.), self-selected vs assigned seating, etc.” must be specifically and precisely defined in measurable terms.

Additional resources: https://explorable.com/operationalizationhttp://www.simplypsychology.org/variables.html

Use each question to set up the research. The table has rows for 4 dependent and 4 independent variables but there may be greater or fewer. Post your group response to Part II only. Then individually provide substantive feedback to others in the class.

Part I

A. Are there differences between rural and urban children’s attitudes regarding diversity?

1.List hypotheses:

-null hypothesis,

-nondirectional hypothesis and

-directional hypothesis

2. What is (are) the Dependent variable(s) –

The dependent variable is attitudes regarding diversity.

3. What is (are) the Independent variable (s)–

The Independent variable is the category of children including both rural and urban.

4. Operationalize

define each variable –

measurement for each variable

Use a table to list the variables, the definition and likely ways to measure.

Dependent VariablesDefinitionMeasurement
1.Attitudes regarding diversity
Independent Variables

B. Is there a relationship between years of post-secondary schooling and social competence?


Null hypothesis: The social competence of students who completed more post-secondary schooling is not significantly different than the social competence of those who completed less post-secondary education.

Nondirectional hypothesis: There is a relationship between the years of post-secondary schooling and social competence.

Directional hypothesis: Students who completed more years of post-secondary education have “better” social competence than students who completed less years of post secondary education

2. What is (are) the Dependent variable(s) – Social Competence

3. What is (are) the Independent variable (s)– Post-secondary education.

4. Operationalize each variable – (definition and measurement).

Dependent variable: Use a table to list the variables, the definition and likely ways to measure.

Dependent VariablesDefinitionMeasurement
1.Social CompetenceAbility to initiate, maintain and grow intrapersonal/peer relationships.Social Skills InventoryDirect observation
Independent Variables
1.years of Post-secondary Education

C. How will learners enrolled in an intensive mathematics program over the summer achieve in math compared to those who are not enrolled in the program?


Null hypothesis: There is no difference in the math achievement of students who enrolled in an intensive mathematics program over the summer and those who did not.

Nondirectional hypothesis

Directional hypothesis Students enrolled in an intensive mathematics program over the summer have a higher rate of math achievement compared to those who are not enroll in the program.

2. What is (are) the Dependent variable(s) – Math achievement

3. What is (are) the Independent variable (s)– Intensive summer math program.

4. Operationalize each variable – (define and measure).

Use a table to list the variables, the definition and likely ways to measure.

Dependent VariablesDefinitionMeasurement
1. Math Achievement
Independent Variables
1.Intensive Math Program

Part II

1. What aspect of this assignment was most challenging for your group?

2. What general understanding do you have of dependent vs independent variables? As a group explain the differences to someone who has no experience with research.

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