Researchers have forever struggled with measuring that one single concept that provides the silver bullet for describing, understanding, or predicting that all important concept of interest. For survey researchers, concepts must be identified, understood, with relationships identified and measured.

Metatheory, the investigation of investigation, is a critical part of being a superior researcher who understands not only what is being measured, but why.

Metatheory may be broadly defined as the theory of investigation. In survey research, metatheory gives understanding and interpretation to that all important process of reducing abstract concepts to observation and measurement.

Surveys are conducted with the goal of providing an operational interpretation of the concepts of interest. Surveys apply measurement, or the “assignment of numbers to respondents to represent amounts or degrees of a property (concept) possessed by all of the respondents. This measurement provides interpretation of the properties of persons, cognitions, behaviors, emotions, events, objects, relationships, and many other concepts of interest to the researcher. Metatheory is a prized resource for preparing a well designed, organized, and meaningful survey.

Modeling for Completeness Metatheory involves the organization of the concepts being investigated into models that represent relationships. We are all familiar with the use of models, whether model airplane kits, drawings of buildings, descriptive text and flowcharts, or icons on a computer screen. The most fundamental issue in modeling is the convergence between the model and the reality it is designed to represent. This applies to both the process being modeled as well as the components that are part of that process. Models are intended to represent reality.

The most exceptional and powerful surveys are not hodge-podge lists of questions, but are questions built around a model of what is being investigated. Survey questions are most effective when they focus on concepts that model a process or components and confidently represent reality on all significant issues.