You might read headlines in the newspaper such as “watching TV leads to depression” or “poor sleep habits linked to suicide risk” or “Justin Bieber is a train-wreck in progress”. All of these headlines are designed to grab your attention, summarize hours of research into a bite-sized piece of information (at least the first two), and lead you to a particular conclusion. While the truth of these statements is debatable, one thing they all have in common is their use of operational definitions. Operational definitions may not be the ones you find in the dictionary but they are adopted for the purpose of investigating a question, to ensure that everyone is on the same page. For example, if a researcher is interested in determining which kind of pasta is the most delicious, they must first define the terms pasta and delicious. Does pasta refer only to noodle-based dishes from Italy or does it include noodles from other regions such as Southeast Asia, India, or Japan? Should we include pasta dishes with sauce or without sauce? Should there be a limit to the ratio of sauce to pasta? How do we measure delicious? Can we objectify something as subjective as taste […]