ARDA Guiding Papers Series

Faithful Measures: Developing Improved Measures of Religion

by Roger Finke, Christopher D. Bader and Edward C. Polson

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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Please use the following when citing this paper:

Finke, Roger, Christopher D. Bader and Edward C. Polson. 2010. Faithful Measures: Developing Improved Measures of Religion (ARDA Guiding Paper Series). State College, PA: The Association of Religion Data Archives at The Pennsylvania State University, from

Roger Finke, Penn State University

Christopher D. Bader, Baylor University

Edward C. Polson, Louisiana State University-Shreveport