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A Tale of Two CulturesQualitative and Quantitative Research in the Social Sciences$
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Gary Goertz and James Mahoney

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691149707

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691149707.001.0001

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Meaning and Measurement

Meaning and Measurement

(p.139) Chapter 11 Meaning and Measurement
A Tale of Two Cultures

Gary Goertz

James Mahoney

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines how translation problems are manifested across the qualitative and quantitative cultures for issues related to concepts and measurement. In the quantitative research paradigm, one speaks of variables and indicators. X and Y are normally latent, unobserved variables for which one needs (quantitative) indicators. In practice, quantitative scholars might fuse the variable and the indicator into one entity. Qualitative researchers, on the other hand, tend to use the variable-indicator language which causes a translation problem and does not capture research practices in the qualitative culture. The chapter first considers the notion of “membership function,” which is important in the fuzzy-set approach to concepts, before discussing a fundamental principle of semantic transformations in the qualitative culture: the Principle of Unimportant Variation. It also explains the relationship between scale types and membership functions in fuzzy-set analysis.

Keywords:   translation problems, concepts, measurement, membership functions, semantic transformations, qualitative research, quantitative research, Principle of Unimportant Variation, scale types, fuzzy-set analysis

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