How to Instrumentalize your Instrumentation Section

Qualitative Methodology
Quantitative Methodology

The instrumentation section of your methodology can be one of the most straightforward pieces in the entire chapter. If you know where to look, you will not even have to put much thought into what to write – just let the information do the talking! But of course, that begs the question: what information am I even looking for?

Well, the first thing to do is know what instrument you are using. We have plenty of resources for that, like this blog on how to find a validated instrument, or this directory of some of the most commonly used instruments. Once you have done that, make sure to locate one of two things – either the article describing the creation of the instrument (this is your best bet) or the manual that comes with the instrument on purchase. Either of these should have the information you need, which you should present neatly and in this order:

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  1. Identify the variable to describe what you are measuring with the instrument. If it is a job satisfaction questionnaire, is there more than one facet of job satisfaction that it measures? These are called subscales, and you should list any that result from the instrument, if you plan to use them. Make sure to add a sentence or two defining the variable itself. For example, “The Job Satisfaction Survey’s (JSS) measure of satisfaction is a measure of satisfaction with payment, supervision, reciprocation, and the inner operating procedures of the workplace. It is made up of eight subscales and one total score, where a low value corresponds to dissatisfaction, and higher values indicate a greater level of satisfaction.” Scales will almost always come with a definition, just make sure to reword it; otherwise, cite the author.
  2. Tell your reader how many questions there are for each of the scales (if there are scales) and overall. This information might be in the scoring instructions, or it might be part of the description in the article where the instrument was created. At this point, make sure to identify if there is any reverse scoring, which should also be clearly stated in the article. Use statements like “The Pay satisfaction scale consists of four questions, including Q1, Q10, Q19, and Q28. Of these, item 10 should be reverse coded before scoring.”
  3. Detail the reliability and validity. A common measure of reliability is Cronbach’s alpha, sometimes called the coefficient alpha. If available, the test-retest reliability is a good addition to reliability (usually shown as a correlation coefficient). Some scales will have fit statistics for validity, such as a CFI, TLI, or RMSEA; do not worry too much about what they mean, just jot them down. Other things to look out for include discriminant and convergent validity, which are usually given as correlation coefficients – just make sure to identify what the scale is being correlated with. Give one of these for each subscale if available. Fit statistics like CFI, TLI, and RMSEA are almost always given overall for the whole instrument, while alphas and some correlation coefficients are usually on the subscale level. For example, “The JSS Pay subscale has a Coefficient alpha of .75, a test-retest reliability of .45, and was found to correlate with age (r = .21), as the authors expected.”

And that is it! Add an introduction to the instrument at the head of the section, and you should be done! In the introduction, it is best practice to name the population the instrument’s creators tested the instrument on, if available.