Have you wondered why you can’t find all the words you’ve heard so for in your entire life in one dictionary? You often get bored when you don’t seem to grasp the ‘big words’ your friends use when holding a conversation; sometimes not because it doesn’t make sense but because they use these words differently from the normal everyday use. In another picture, some people like to explain what they mean when they use homographic terms in public; they do not want you to give it a different meaning from theirs.
Now that’s how it is in research, a familiar word may mean different things and apply differently to different fields of study; no wonder typical final year projects framework requires the operational definition of concepts in a research. Interestingly, if you do not understand the idea of conceptualization in research, you may find it a bit challenging fixing the operationalization; they both complement each other.
Conceptualization in research is an idea that governs the explicit definition of research terms without any ambiguities especially terms that have different meaning in other fields of study. It guides how researchers define terms based on the meaning in a particular field of study. You don’t want your research audience to interpret your research terms differently, do you?
Operationalization on the other hand is the definition of research terms the way it will be used through the research. This may sound a bit confusing with the former but get it right; when you operationalize a term in a research, each time that term is used throughout the research, the meaning is referred to that specific definition you gave at the beginning. Let’s take for example, your research topic is;
‘Coverage of Political Issues by Select national Newspapers’
Defining the term ‘Coverage’ operationally sounds like;
Coverage is the process of gathering, interpretation and dissemination of political issues by the press.
As much as you can, narrow the operational definition down to your project topic because that’s exactly what it entails. The reason this is done is so that your research audience do not give another definition outside your research idea. Some may sound like ‘why is this; this is not the correct definition for this term’ but that’s not really your business; it is a research framework which you must follow.
Researchers misunderstand these terms a lot and sometime use them interchangeably. I expect that such misunderstanding is cleared; if not you can always use the comment box for further clarity.