Questionnaire Validation: A Brief Guide for Readers of the Research Literature

Questionnaire Validation: A Brief Guide for Readers of the Research Literature. Mark Jensen.

I thought I’d give you a quick overview of a brief but very useful (and readable) article that explains how readers of research literature in pain can evaluate the literature.  It provides a summary of the issues surrounding the evaluation of pain measures by reviewing the essential concepts of validity and reliability, and how these are usually evaluated in pain assessment research.

It also has a glossary of terms used in evaluating psychometric properties of pain measures that is very helpful as a brief dictionary, and it covers just what needs to be included in any paper about a new pain assessment:

(1) the rationale for the measure (what will this measure do that previous measures cannot?);

(2) validity data that specifically addresses the uses for which the measure is being proposed; and

(3) initial reliability data.

Any psychology student (and many other health science students) will very quickly realise that there are thousands of pain measures already available, yet each year there are many more that are published.  Why oh why would we need any more?  The answer is not just that each researcher keenly wants to be ‘known’ for his or her new questionnaire – but that ‘our understanding of pain, and the effects of pain treatments, is so dependent on our ability to measure pain, any improvement in pain assessment should ultimately result in an improvement in our understanding and treatment of pain.’

Jensen writes that there are two main reasons for developing a new pain measure:

(1) that the new measure assesses a dimension or component of pain not assessed by existing measures, and

(2) that the new measure shows clear improvements over existing measures of the same pain dimension (eg, it is shorter, it is easier to administer and score, it is a better predictor of important outcomes, it is more sensitive to change).

Although this is not a new article – it was published in 2003, it summarises all the relevant psychometric areas in such a succinct and reader-friendly way that I think it should be compulsory reading for anyone learning about pain assessment (and certainly anyone in the midst of dreaming up a new measure!).

Jensen, M. (2003). Questionnaire Validation: A Brief Guide for Readers of the Research Literature. The Clinical Journal of Pain, 19:345–352.

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