Measurement Versus Calibration: A Set‐Theoretic Approach

Charles C. Ragin

in The Oxford Handbook of Political Methodology

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199286546
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191577307 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Political Science

Measurement Versus Calibration: A Set‐Theoretic Approach

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This article distinguishes between ‘measurement’ and ‘calibration’. It is organized around the distinction between measurement and calibration. The main message of this article is that fuzzy sets, unlike conventional variables, must be calibrated. It also argues that fuzzy sets provide a middle path between quantitative and qualitative measurement. It explores the common measurement practices in quantitative and qualitative social research. It then further demonstrates that fuzzy sets resonate with both the measurement concerns of qualitative researchers, where the goal often is to recognize between relevant and irrelevant variation, and the measurement concerns of quantitative researchers, where the goal is the precise placement of cases relative to each other. Current practices in quantitative social science undercut serious attention to calibration. Set-theoretic analysis without careful calibration of set membership is an exercise in futility.

Keywords: measurement; calibration; fuzzy sets; social science; set-theoretic analysis

Article.  11227 words. 

Subjects: Political Methodology ; Comparative Politics

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