Guidelines for Professional Practice in Reporting Information About Measurement Instruments in Health Research
Evelyn Perloff, Ph.D., Behavioral Measurement Database Services, Inc. Pittsburgh, PA
Fred B. Bryant, Ph.D. Department of Psychology Loyola University Chicago
The goal of this article is to propose a set of guidelines aimed at changing professional practice with respect to how investigators report information about the measurement instruments used in their research, in order to enhance the replicability and utility of research in the health sciences. Based on a combined century of work in the field of measurement, we have identified several commonly used reporting practises that undermine the replicability and utility of health research. These unsound reporting practices make it difficult or impossible for other researchers to replicate the instruments and measurement procedures of prior investigators, and thereby impede scientific progress. As a consequence of these suboptimal reporting practices, if a new study fails to replicate earlier findings, one cannot know whether this failure to replicate is because the earlier findings are spurious or because the new study has used different measures compared to earlier researchers. If investigators in a particular field of research cannot repeat the methods of measurement used in previous studies, then this field is not practicing science.
The problems we have identified involve current practices in reporting the development of new instruments and the modification of pre-existing instruments in peer-reviewed health journals. Unfortunately, these problematic reporting practices are all too common in the health sciences. The fact that these issues are ignored in current published guidelines for research practice and reporting—for example, in public health,1 epidemiology,2 medicine,3 clinical trials,4 and psychology5—underscores the need for additional reporting guidelines concerning measurement methods and instrumentation. Below we highlight these problematic reporting practices, presenting them in terms of a set of basic questions that published health research articles too often fail to address concerning the development and modification of measurement instruments. Finally, we present a set of guidelines for reporting measurement in health research.