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ARDA/ASREC Working Papers Series

Faithful Measures: Developing Improved Measures of Religion

Roger Finke
Penn State University

Christopher D. Bader
Baylor University

Edward C. Polson
Louisiana State University-Shreveport


Despite an avalanche of innovations in conducting data analysis, the measures used to generate the data have undergone remarkably modest change. This is a significant problem for the social scientific study of religion, given the changing substantive and theoretical issues being addressed and the increasing diversity of religions being studied. This paper addresses three areas. First, we identify three sources of measurement error and identify systematic errors as the most severe form, resulting in both Type I and Type II errors when testing hypotheses. Second, we target specific areas where improved measures are needed, addressing both the mundane issues of measurement and the more theoretical questions of measurement design. Third, we propose an agenda and strategy for developing and testing new measures.

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