Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Using Qualitative Methods to Inform Scale Development

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Using Qualitative Methods to Inform Scale Development

Article excerpt

This article describes the process by which one study utilized qualitative methods to create items for a multi dimensional scale to measure twelve step program affiliation. The process included interviewing fourteen addicted persons while in twelve step focused treatment about specific "pros" (things they like or would miss out on by not being involved in twelve-step programs) and "cons" (things they dislike or would benefit from if they did not engage in twelve-step programs). The triangular process used in qualitative research is described, which generated items for the subsequent instrument to measure ambivalence toward recovery programs. Mixed-method strategies included qualitative interviewing to inform scale development and three analytical approaches to produce specific codes, themes, and domains. Key Words: Mixed Method Research, Scale Development, and Twelve Step Programs


Padgett (1998) and Weiss (1994) describe a rationale for the use of qualitative interviewing to provide preparation for quantitative studies. This qualitative preparation is often conducted for survey research. By conducting qualitative interviews prior to surveys, key information from participants in specific social/behavioral circumstances (e.g., addicted individuals in twelve step recovery programs) can enrich the quality of the research. Analyzing data generated from the interviews informs the survey designed for larger samples. Furthermore, analysis of data from surveys can be analyzed from either or both a quantitative or qualitative approach. This broad mixed-method tradition provides the foundation for the description of this particular study. The next few paragraphs describe the background of this study within the context of substance abuse research and the focus on informing the development of a scale to measure ambivalence toward twelve step recovery programs.

Generally true in substance abuse research, little is reported about how items for instruments, checklists, or inventories are generated. For example, Baker, Sellman, and Horn (2001) report on the construction of the Attribution to God's Influence Scale (AGIS), which observes alteration in perceptions of God's influence of people involved in twelve-step recovery. They mention constructing items based upon consultations with colleagues and participants in spirituality classes, but a specific description of how these consultations resulted in the generated items was not included. Given the lack of attention about item generation in the psychometric literature, one might conclude that the topic is not an important issue/concern. From a quantitative or statistical point-of-view, the origins of questionnaire items are not significant. The key is whether or not the items represent the construct or variable in question as measured by reliability and validity scores; not where the items came from.

Padgett (1998) mentions a multimethod combination depicted as qualitative to inform quantitative efforts in developing scales. In this method, the qualitative study comes first and is used to explore concepts and to identify hypotheses. Using qualitative inquiry can be especially useful to researchers in the development of scales. In essence, validity of concepts and inquiries in quantitative research can be enhanced by first being grounded in real life situations and observations through having conversations or interviews from an open perspective.

In addition to psychometric concerns, where the items were first located and how they were shaped or edited, provides an important context that reveals assumptions and theoretical positions of the authors of those items, highlighting what domains of knowledge or expertise they privileged as well as those domains that were omitted. Examining these early stages may also serve as a vehicle for us to see if there may be some yet unexplored or untapped areas of the topic in question (or new informants) that could yield specific new items or entire new contexts for questions. …

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