Scale development and validation are critical to much of the work in the health, social, and behavioral sciences. However, the constellation of techniques required for scale development and evaluation can be onerous, jargon-filled, unfamiliar, and resource-intensive. Further, it is often not a part of graduate training. Therefore, our goal was to concisely review the process of scale development in as straightforward a manner as possible, both to facilitate the development of new, valid, and reliable scales, and to help improve existing ones. To do this, we have created a primer for best practices for scale development in measuring complex phenomena. This is not a systematic review, but rather the amalgamation of technical literature and lessons learned from our experiences spent creating or adapting a number of scales over the past several decades. We identified three phases that span nine steps. In the first phase, items are generated and the validity of their content is assessed. In the second phase, the scale is constructed. Steps in scale construction include pre-testing the questions, administering the survey, reducing the number of items, and understanding how many factors the scale captures. In the third phase, scale evaluation, the number of dimensions is tested, reliability is tested, and validity is assessed. We have also added examples of best practices to each step. In sum, this primer will equip both scientists and practitioners to understand the ontology and methodology of scale development and validation, thereby facilitating the advancement of our understanding of a range of health, social, and behavioral outcomes.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Published in Frontiers in Public Health, Volume 6, Issue 149, 2018.
© 2018 Boateng, Neilands, Frongillo, Melgar-Quiñonez and Young. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Boateng, G., Neilands, T., Frongillo, E., Melgar-Quiñonez, H., & Young, S. (2018). Best Practices for Developing and Validating Scales for Health, Social, and Behavioral Research: A Primer. Frontiers In Public Health, 6(149). doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2018.00149