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Front. Public Health | doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2018.00149

Best Practices for Developing and Validating Scales for Health, Social and Behavioral Research: A Primer

 Godfred O. Boateng1*, Torsten B. Neilands2, Edward A. Frongillo3, Hugo Melgar-Quinonez4 and  Sera L. Young1, 5
  • 1Anthropology and Global Health, Northwestern University, United States
  • 2Division of Prevention Science, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, United States
  • 3Department of Health Promotion, Education and Behavior, University of South Carolina, United States
  • 4Institute for Global Food Security, School of Human Nutrition, McGill University, Canada
  • 5Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, United States

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 phenomenon.
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

Keywords: scale development, psychometric evaluation, Validation, Public health and nutrition, Content Validity, latent constructs, measurement theory, item development, Scale evaluation, Item reduction, Tests of dimensionality, tests of reliability, tests of validity, pretesting of questions, identification of domain, global health

Received: 26 Feb 2018; Accepted: 02 May 2018.

Edited by:

Jimmy T. Efird, University of Newcastle, Australia

Reviewed by:

Aida Turrini, Consiglio per la ricerca in agricoltura e l'analisi dell'economia agraria (CREA), Italy
Mary E. Northridge, New York University, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Boateng, Neilands, Frongillo, Melgar-Quinonez 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.

* Correspondence: PhD. Godfred O. Boateng, Northwestern University, Anthropology and Global Health, Evanston, United States,