Developing Psychometric Scales using Ethnography for Domain Analysis of Social Constructs

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Conference Proceeding

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Physician-Scholars in the Social Sciences & Humanities


In their seminal text on Psychometric Theory, Nunnaly and Junn state that the most important part of any scale measure is a valid and complete domain analysis. Researchers must be certain that scale measures are not a reified construct based solely on statistical analysis of questionnaire responses or an available data set. Nunnaly and Junn acknowledge that the best domain analysis might be based on theoretical foundations alone, if that is the best definition of the construct being measured. Ethnography provides both a theoretical foundation and “lived experiences” which allow researchers to generate items for scales that are recognizable to participants and reflect broadly applicable social constructs.

This presentation discusses a specific societal level dialectic of belonging versus exclusion. Within that dialectic, the presenter will acknowledge anthropological theories within the theme of “belonging” such as kinship, ethnicity, and healing rituals and contrast those with anthropological theories that create “othering” or exclusion, such as structural violence or race. Each extreme of the dialectic inversely defines the alternative. Within the dialectic of belonging versus exclusion the presenter will give two specific case examples of ethnographic domain analysis and then describe how each was used to create psychometric scales called “Measure of Physician Added Value (MPAV)” and “Measure of Structural Violence in Healthcare (MSVH)”. Data using Rasch Analysis for goodness of fit statistics will be shared, demonstrating how ethnography is a valuable tool for developing quantitative social research.

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