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Measurement scales are used to categorize and/or quantify variables.

This lesson describes the four scales of


measurement that are commonly used in statistical analysis: nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio scales. Properties of Measurement Scales Each scale of measurement satisfies one or more of the following properties of measurement. Identity. Each value on the measurement scale has a unique meaning. Magnitude. Values on the measurement scale have an ordered relationship to one another. That is, some values are larger and some are smaller. Equal intervals. Scale units along the scale are equal to one another. This means, for example, that the difference between 1 and 2 would be equal to the difference between 19 and 20. Absolute zero. The scale has a true zero point, below which no values exist. Nominal Scale of Measurement The nominal scale of measurement only satisfies the identity property of measurement. Values assigned to variables represent a descriptive category, but have no inherent numerical value with respect to magnitude. Gender is an example of a variable that is measured on a nominal scale. Individuals may be classified as "male" or "female", but neither value represents more or less "gender" than the other. Religion and political affiliation are other examples of variables that are normally measured on a nominal scale. Ordinal Scale of Measurement The ordinal scale has the property of both identity and magnitude. Each value on the ordinal scale has a unique meaning, and it has an ordered relationship to every other value on the scale. An example of an ordinal scale in action would be the results of a horse race, reported as "win", "place", and "show". We know the rank order in which horses finished the race. The horse that won finished ahead of the horse that placed, and the horse that placed finished ahead of the horse that showed. However, we cannot tell from this ordinal scale whether it was a close race or whether the winning horse won by a mile. Interval Scale of Measurement The interval scale of measurement has the properties of identity, magnitude, and equal intervals. A perfect example of an interval scale is the Fahrenheit scale to measure temperature. The scale is made up of equal temperature units, so that the difference between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit is equal to the difference between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. With an interval scale, you know not only whether different values are bigger or smaller, you also know how much bigger or smaller they are. For example, suppose it is 60 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday and 70 degrees on Tuesday. You know not only that it was hotter on Tuesday, you also know that it was 10 degrees hotter. Ratio Scale of Measurement The ratio scale of measurement satisfies all four of the properties of measurement: identity, magnitude, equal intervals, and an absolute zero. The weight of an object would be an example of a ratio scale. Each value on the weight scale has a unique meaning, weights can be rank ordered, units along the weight scale are equal to one another, and there is an absolute zero. Absolute zero is a property of the weight scale because objects at rest can be weightless, but they cannot have negative weight.

In statistics, a variable has two defining characteristics: A variable is an attribute that describes a person, place, thing, or idea. The value of the variable can "vary" from one entity to another. For example, a person's hair color is a potential variable, which could have the value of "blond" for one person and "brunette" for another. Qualitative vs. Quantitative Variables Variables can be classified as qualitative (aka, categorical) or quantitative (aka, numeric). Qualitative. Qualitative variables take on values that are names or labels. The color of a ball (e.g., red, green, blue) or the breed of a dog (e.g., collie, shepherd, terrier) would be examples of qualitative or categorical variables. Quantitative. Quantitative variables are numeric. They represent a measurable quantity. For example, when we speak of the population of a city, we are talking about the number of people in the city - a measurable attribute of the city. Therefore, population would be a quantitative variable. In algebraic equations, quantitative variables are represented by symbols (e.g., x, y, or z). Discrete vs. Continuous Variables Quantitative variables can be further classified as discrete or continuous. If a variable can take on any value between its minimum value and its maximum value, it is called a continuous variable; otherwise, it is called a discrete variable. Some examples will clarify the difference between discrete and continouous variables. Suppose the fire department mandates that all fire fighters must weigh between 150 and 250 pounds. The weight of a fire fighter would be an example of a continuous variable; since a fire fighter's weight could take on any value between 150 and 250 pounds. Suppose we flip a coin and count the number of heads. The number of heads could be any integer value between 0 and plus infinity. However, it could not be any number between 0 and plus infinity. We could not, for example, get 2.3 heads. Therefore, the number of heads must be a discrete variable.

two important types of data sets - populations and samples Populations versus Samples A population includes each element from the set of observations that can be made. A sample consists only of observations drawn from the population. Depending on the sampling method, a sample can have fewer observations than the population, the same number of observations, or more observations. More than one sample can be derived from the same population. Other differences have to do with nomenclature, notation, and computations. For example, A a measurable characteristic of a population, such as a mean or standard deviation, is called a parameter; but a measurable characteristic of a sample is called a statistic. We will see in future lessons that the mean of a population is denoted by the symbol ; but the mean of a sample is denoted by the symbol x. We will also learn in future lessons that the formula for the standard deviation of a population is different from the formula for the standard deviation of a sample. A sampling method is a procedure for selecting sample elements from a population.