Discussion Prompt


Operation- alizing

  • "Boston was the heart of the American revolution."
  • "Philadelphia was the heart of the American Revolution."
  • "Virginia was the heart of the American Revolution."

The Underground Railroad

source: National Geographic

Most interesting concepts in the social sciences and humanities are not directly measurable.

But often you can can define a series of steps that make them make them measurable.

Operationalism, strong form.

The theory that concepts that can't be measured are, strictly speaking, meaningless.

"Length" only has meaning with regards to the process you use to measure an object.

Length dilation

Most concepts in the humanities and social sciences aren't obviously measurable.

  • bias
  • significance
  • centrality
  • influence
  • [...]

Operationalizing a research question, weak form

Finding a measurement that maps well enough onto a concept that you can use it to shed new light on the underlying phenomenon.

How do you operationalize "learning?"

  • Standardized testing.

Question: Are Northeastern students racially biased their understand of Boston?

How would you operationalize that question?

Networks are useful because they can operationalize centrality

18th Century trade

Boston distills sugar and other products of slavery; ships cod and other fish products to Spanish colonies; manages shipping of goods through the Atlantic.

American Shipping

Industrializing Ice

Cotton-era Triangular Trade


Industrial Boston

The Boston Fire