Quality & Quantity

, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 697–712

The inverse operationalisation of concepts for the secondary analysis of quantitative data: an example from the study of parental collaboration


DOI: 10.1007/s11135-012-9796-y

Cite this article as:
Hinchliffe, S. Qual Quant (2014) 48: 697. doi:10.1007/s11135-012-9796-y


Properly validated scalar variables are often viewed as the gold standard for the operationalisation of concepts in quantitative data. This is a sensible approach at the planning stage of the survey process. However, when working with data that has already been collected for another purpose, such variables cannot always be expected. This is particularly the case when one wishes to analyse a concept that has not previously been studied in a particular context. This paper provides an example of the construction of a binary variable for the concept of parental collaboration, using data from the Growing Up in Scotland study. It examines the decision-making process for the “inverse operationalisation” of the concept, an innovative method which starts with the assumption that all cases in the dataset demonstrate a particular property (parental collaboration), and gradually chips away at those which provide sufficient evidence to suggest otherwise, until a working variable is created.


Secondary data analysis Operationalisation of concepts Indicator methodology Coparenting Collaborative parenting 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Research on Families and RelationshipsUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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