elisr companion

Exploratory Likert Scaling in R

elisr is a shorthand for Exploratory Likert Scaling (ELiS) in R. ELiS is a multiple one-dimensional scaling approach and operates on a bottom-up selection process that integrates characteristic values of classical test theory. This technical companion is a step-by-step approach on how to use elisr. At the end of this manual, you will have gained enough understanding to confidently perform analysis in this framework. By working through the following examples, you will not only grasp what is going on under the hood, but also encounter some benefits of this approach. Note however, that this is mainly thought as a how-to. For a more complete view on the heuristic potential that lays out with this approach, you might want to take a look in the cited paper(s), too. There is at least one article [in progress] which is not yet mentioned. I will update the list of articles as soon as possible.

Important note

It cannot be stressed often enough, that after exploring your data set with disjoint() and overlap() you need to process the result. Additional analysis is essential. You can find a way to proceed (with a follow-up analysis) in the last section. Alright, let’s ease up and dive deeper into some of elisr’s fiddly technical details.

The two workhorses: disjoint() & overlap()

elisr basically consists of two user functions disjoint() and overlap(). With a typical case in mind, the practical difference between them is: disjoint() is set up to produce sharp and disjoint scale fragments. Sharp and disjoint fragments feature a high internal consistency. Thus, items within such a fragment share a strong linear relationship with each another. The thing with disjoint() is, it allocates any item to a particular fragment. This is where overlap() steps in. Passing fragments to overlap(), the function’s underlying algorithm tries to enrich each fragment. The emerging scales are flavored with items from your specified data frame, but the algorithm skips those that are already built into a fragment (step 1). We will talk about the inclusion criterion later in much greater detail. To get to the point: Using overlap() an item can appear in more than one of the enriched fragments. In doing so, we overcome the splitting effect disjoint() induces. These basic principles unfold one step at a time throughout the rest of this companion. So, stay tuned!

Spoiler alert: Let me tempt you with this; the last section did already reveal the key strategy of an exploratory scale analysis using elisr. If you consult the bottom-up item-selection procedure for advice, you will often find yourself following these two steps: (1) Instruct disjoint() to produce a couple of sharp, disjoint scale fragments. (2) Let overlap() pick up (and expand) the pieces to complete the scales.

A primer for monitoring the scale development process

In preparation for the upcoming analyses, I want to lose a word about how elisr keeps track of the development process of a scale. There are 3 monitoring devices: mrit, alpha, and rbar. mrit stands for “marginal corrected item-total correlation.” mrit displays the relationship between the sum-score of the items in a fragment at some specific point of the scale development process and an item which is considered for admission. I use a part-whole-correction to compute this value. So, the item (which is considered for admission) is not part of the sum-score. A lot about this is said in later chapters, in the references, or if you type ?print.msdf. All right, let’s move on. The marginal part (italic) applies for alpha and rbar, too. But “Cronbach’s alpha” (alpha) gauges the internal consistency of a scale whereas rbar tracks the average inter-item correlation. That is basically it. Now, we can start analyzing the trust items.

Analyzing the trust items

Let’s jump right into practice. trust is going to be the data base in the upcoming units. trust is a subset of the German General Social Survey (ALLBUS) 2018 in which participants answered a couple of questions on their trust in public institutions and organizations (type ?trust). Because the data frame is already built into elisr, we have easy access to it.

library(elisr) ; data(trust) ; head(trust)
#> Welcome to elisr!
#>   healserv fccourt bundtag munadmin judsyst tv newsppr uni fedgovt police
#> 1        6       7       5        5       3  7       6   4       5      5
#> 2        5       5       4        5       3  3       4   5       2      5
#> 3        6       6       6        3       6  4       4   5       6      5
#> 4        6       4       3        3       3  1       1   3       3      3
#> 5        5       1       1        4       2  1       1   5       1      2
#> 6        5       5       5        7       4  4       3   4       6      7
#>   polpati eucomisn eupalmnt
#> 1       4        3        4
#> 2       1        4        4
#> 3       5        4        4
#> 4       3        3        3
#> 5       1        1        1
#> 6       4       NA        5

Great. The output shows the first six values of each variable of the trust data set. But since we want to have a look under elisr’s hood, we should get the machinery working. First, we inspect disjoint() and then move on to overlap().

disjoint()

In the following snippets, we will use a disjoint scaling procedure to produce a couple of sharp fragments. For that reason, we consult disjoint(). Using disjoint() we will first smash the data set to smithereens. Therefore, we need to learn about mrit_min. After that, we will talk a little bit about the thing you have produced, a msdf. Then, we go over some terminology, and finally talk a little more about the output itself.

mrit_min

To smash the scale (and produce the desired sharp fragments), we set up disjoint() with a high value for the marginal corrected item-total correlation mrit_min. Think of mrit_min as definition of a fragment’s lower boundary. It comes in the form of a correlation ranging between 0 and 1 (see ?disjoint). So below this value you are not willing to accept an item to be integrated into any of the emerging fragments. One could also say, you forbid disjoint() to incorporate such items. All right, let’s put things into practice. Because mrit_min = 0.55 produced satisfactory results in some of my own prior analyses I will stick with it for now. But feel free to play around with this value (to fully understand its behavior).

# (foo <- baz): assign and print in one step
(msdf <-  disjoint(df = trust, mrit_min = 0.55))
#> $scl_1 #> mrit rbar alpha #> eupalmnt, eucomisn 0.92 0.92 0.96 #> polpati 0.64 0.72 0.89 #> fedgovt 0.68 0.67 0.89 #> bundtag 0.70 0.64 0.90 #> judsyst 0.58 0.59 0.90 #> fccourt 0.58 0.55 0.90 #> #>$scl_2
#>             mrit rbar alpha
#> newsppr, tv 0.67 0.67   0.8

msdf

The above output shows summary statistics (our well-known mrit, rbar, and alpha) of a multiple scaled data frame (msdf). Think of msdfs as named lists extended with a couple of attributes for internal computational reasons (see attributes(msdf)). If you cannot see the output I am currently talking about, something went wrong. If everything ran smoothly you can skip the Help & Advice section to continue.

Help & Advice: Okay, something went wrong. First of all,disjoint() (and overlap()) actually complain about quite a number of things. Hopefully, the provided messages are sensible enough to let you cope with the particular obstacle. So, if a brilliant orange advice shines out of your console, read the message carefully (and try to follow instructions). My first guess would always be a typo. These little goblins are nasty everyday companions in applied research. But if you cannot encrypt the error message, hack it into Google.

Done? Alright, then we can go over to the terminology part and then learn something more about disjoint()’s machinery.

Some terminology

msdf
#> $scl_1 #> mrit rbar alpha #> eupalmnt, eucomisn 0.92 0.92 0.96 #> polpati 0.64 0.72 0.89 #> fedgovt 0.68 0.67 0.89 #> bundtag 0.70 0.64 0.90 #> judsyst 0.58 0.59 0.90 #> fccourt 0.58 0.55 0.90 #> #>$scl_2
#>             mrit rbar alpha
#> newsppr, tv 0.67 0.67   0.8

Focus on $scl_1. I will refer to objects like scl_1 (read as: scale one) generally, as fragments. Now take a closer look at eupalmnt, eucomisn (read as: EU Parliament & EU Commission). This comma-separated pair of two items in the first line is the core of scl_1. The core highlights the result of the first step of the scaling procedure – a two-item scale. As we can see, the core of scl_1 contains the two variables that share the highest positive linear association in the data frame (mrit = rbar = 0.92). To find it, disjoint() (and overlap()) sets up a correlation matrix internally and asks for the one (correlation) that is the highest of them all. Note: If multiple pairs share the same positive linear relationship, disjoint() will always choose the first one in order. It is important to mention, that in search of the highest correlation neither disjoint() nor overlap() will go on forever. To become a bit more precise, both functions give up the search, when the data frame lacks a correlation that exceeds your preset mrit_min. For convenience, disjoint() owns a test function for this purpose. If you want to try it out type disjoint(trust, mrit_min=.95) Under disjoint()’s hood In the prior analysis everything ran smoothly. So let’s put this result back on the screen and refocus on the algorithm again. We were looking for the highest correlation which sets up the core. To simplify the forthcoming procedure, remember our previous mrit_min = 0.55. Note: If the value of mrit_min slipped your mind, read out msdf’s attributes as a reminder (type attributes(msdf)) msdf #>$scl_1
#>                    mrit rbar alpha
#> eupalmnt, eucomisn 0.92 0.92  0.96
#> polpati            0.64 0.72  0.89
#> fedgovt            0.68 0.67  0.89
#> bundtag            0.70 0.64  0.90
#> judsyst            0.58 0.59  0.90
#> fccourt            0.58 0.55  0.90
#>
#> $scl_2 #> mrit rbar alpha #> newsppr, tv 0.67 0.67 0.8 In the first line we can see that the core consists of eupalmnt and eucomisn. As mentioned above, both variables share the highest correlation (which is obviously greater than our prespecified mrit_min = 0.55): mrit = 0.92. But once the core was found, what happened to scl_1 ? Let’s throw a quick glance under disjoint()’s hood: scl_1 msdf #>$scl_1
#>                    mrit rbar alpha
#> eupalmnt, eucomisn 0.92 0.92  0.96
#> polpati            0.64 0.72  0.89
#> fedgovt            0.68 0.67  0.89
#> bundtag            0.70 0.64  0.90
#> judsyst            0.58 0.59  0.90
#> fccourt            0.58 0.55  0.90
#>
#> $scl_2 #> mrit rbar alpha #> newsppr, tv 0.67 0.67 0.8 First, disjoint() added up the core items what created a sum-score. Subsequently, disjoint() watched out for the highest correlation between this sum-score and another trust variable in the data frame. It found polpati. Because polpati’s correlation with the sum-score (its corrected item-total correlation) is higher than the specified stop criterion (mrit_min = 0.55) it was melted into the core. The new fragment is now a bundle of 3 Items: eupalmnt, eucomisn, and polpati. The same logic applies to the inclusion of the other variables (e.g., fedgovt et al.) and reveals the second step of the algorithmic procedure: Continue to collect new items from df = trust, until the correlation between the sum-score of the items in the fragment and any other item is less than your prespecified mrit_min. scl_2 msdf #>$scl_1
#>                    mrit rbar alpha
#> eupalmnt, eucomisn 0.92 0.92  0.96
#> polpati            0.64 0.72  0.89
#> fedgovt            0.68 0.67  0.89
#> bundtag            0.70 0.64  0.90
#> judsyst            0.58 0.59  0.90
#> fccourt            0.58 0.55  0.90
#>
#> $scl_2 #> mrit rbar alpha #> newsppr, tv 0.67 0.67 0.8 Now let’s focus on $scl_2. scl_2 should raise the question, why another two-item scale emerges. First, it seems as if the stop criterion did fail. The mrit value at the end of scl_1 is 0.58. But at the beginning of scl_2 mrit = 0.67. What is going on here? Well, the algorithm forces disjoint() to build (and enrich) new fragments, like scl_1, as long as there are remaining items in your data set. More specifically, the algorithm stops only if (a) there is no variable that meets the inclusion criterion, or (b) it soaked up the last remaining variable in the data frame.

In addition, (a) also holds for the construction process of new fragments. But when the algorithm builds a new fragment in particular, it needs (b) at least two leftovers – because a single variable cannot make up a core. So again, disjoint() will not build (and enrich) new fragments at any costs. The necessary correlations need to be positive and higher than your prespecified minimum value. That unmasks the last unique step of the disjoint scaling procedure: If the algorithm detects some remaining items in the data set that meet its specific requirements, it starts over again. Now we know why disjoint() started another two-item scale – the algorithm demanded it.

msdf
#> $scl_1 #> mrit rbar alpha #> eupalmnt, eucomisn 0.92 0.92 0.96 #> polpati 0.64 0.72 0.89 #> fedgovt 0.68 0.67 0.89 #> bundtag 0.70 0.64 0.90 #> judsyst 0.58 0.59 0.90 #> fccourt 0.58 0.55 0.90 #> #>$scl_2
#>             mrit rbar alpha
#> newsppr, tv 0.67 0.67   0.8

A quick summary

To sum up, you could test your understanding against the following question: Why is there no other variable in scl_2? Right, although there are 13 variables in the data frame, there is no other variable among them that meets the internally defined inclusion criterion (the sum-score of the whole fragment is greater than the preset mrit_min). As a consequence, disjoint() did not merge another variable into {eupalmnt, eucomisn}.

msdf
#> $scl_1 #> mrit rbar alpha #> eupalmnt, eucomisn 0.92 0.92 0.96 #> polpati 0.64 0.72 0.89 #> fedgovt 0.68 0.67 0.89 #> bundtag 0.70 0.64 0.90 #> judsyst 0.58 0.59 0.90 #> fccourt 0.58 0.55 0.90 #> #>$scl_2
#>             mrit rbar alpha
#> newsppr, tv 0.67 0.67   0.8

Conclusion

To conclude, let’s remind ourselves of disjoint()’s job description (building disjoint scale fragments). If you recap the last steps, you will find that disjoint() successfully did its job. In the output each variable (from eupalmnt to tv) is present in either scl_1 or scl_2 exactly once. To put it another way, there is no intersecting variable which overlaps in these two fragments.

Note: To ensure disjointedness, the functions exclude a variable after assigning it to a fragment. In advance of the upcoming section keep this result in mind.

print.msdf()

Before we enlarge the disjointedly built fragments, we should reprint the primary output. The following snippet does this though a little different. As you can see, I explicitly wrapped the expression in print() and set the digits argument. In the R side note below I will explain why.

# Pint output to n decimal places (default=2)
print(msdf, digits = 3)
#> $scl_1 #> mrit rbar alpha #> eupalmnt, eucomisn 0.918 0.918 0.957 #> polpati 0.635 0.721 0.886 #> fedgovt 0.677 0.667 0.889 #> bundtag 0.699 0.641 0.899 #> judsyst 0.579 0.588 0.895 #> fccourt 0.582 0.554 0.897 #> #>$scl_2
#>              mrit  rbar alpha
#> newsppr, tv 0.669 0.669 0.802

Note: When calling msdf R internally wraps the expression in print(). Thus, msdf is a shortcut for print(msdf). Both methods can be used interchangeably. But if you want to set printing options (see ?option) you need to explicitly call print() with the desired option (e.g., digits = 3). Note, however, that I wrote custom function to print msdf objects. As a consequence,print() actually passes the work on to print.msdf(). To get straight to the point, print() owns a nice way to print the result to a specified number of digits, so I equipped print.msdf() with that feature as well. The default is set to 2. But be aware of the fact that omitting tons of decimal places does not mean the result is accurately rounded to the specified ones. Anyway, I decided to avoid rounding in the result. The reason therefor is R’s (as I find it, deeply confusing) rounding standard – IEC 60559 (see ?round). So, if you get into the situation where you need to report more than two decimal places, expand the result using digits = n and choose whatever standard you like.

overlap()

In this chapter we use the overlapping scaling procedure to extend out disjointedly built fragments. That is the job of overlap(). Therefore, we first need to learn about mrit_min (again). This will open up overlap()’s hood. After that we will continue with a closer look inside its machinery.

Tip: When you want to know, if a given object is a msdf use is.msdf(). Type ?is.msdf for more details.

mrit_min (again)

Let’s resume and try to extend the disjointedly built fragments. To do that, we (re-)consider the inclusion of every item in the data set that is not yet part of a given fragment (simply because of disjoint()’s nature). As a consequence, we will overcome disjoint()’s disjointedness. The following two paragraphs will lay out this idea in much greater detail. But for now, let’s jump straight into action. We start with a word on the stop criterion.

With disjoint() we use a high value for the stop criterion to smash the scale. Now we use it to soak up up additional items from (what we will later call) the counterpart. Leave aside the counterpart for now. Remember the description of mrit_min instead. mrit_minis the definition of a fragment’s lower boundary and ranges between 0 and 1. This is also true for overlap() (type ?overlap). What changes for the additional mrit_min is, it defines the limit under which you are not be willing to accept an item to complete an emerging scale. What does that means in practical terms? Well, deregulate overlap()’s mrit_min – to allow overlap() to soak up additional items from your data set. In the following snippet I stick with mrit_min = 0.4. But feel free to noodle around with this value. This helps you to fully understand mrit_min’s behavior within overlap().

(mosdf <- overlap(msdf, mrit_min = 0.4))
#> $scl_1 #> mrit rbar alpha #> eupalmnt, eucomisn 0.92 0.92 0.96 #> polpati 0.64 0.72 0.89 #> fedgovt 0.68 0.67 0.89 #> bundtag 0.70 0.64 0.90 #> judsyst 0.58 0.59 0.90 #> fccourt 0.58 0.55 0.90 #> police 0.52 0.52 0.90 #> newsppr 0.52 0.49 0.90 #> tv 0.52 0.47 0.90 #> uni 0.49 0.45 0.90 #> munadmin 0.47 0.43 0.90 #> healserv 0.42 0.40 0.90 #> #>$scl_2
#>             mrit rbar alpha
#> newsppr, tv 0.67 0.67  0.80
#> polpati     0.48 0.51  0.76
#> eucomisn    0.57 0.49  0.80
#> eupalmnt    0.73 0.53  0.85
#> fedgovt     0.67 0.53  0.87
#> bundtag     0.69 0.53  0.89
#> judsyst     0.58 0.51  0.89
#> fccourt     0.57 0.49  0.90
#> police      0.52 0.47  0.90
#> uni         0.49 0.45  0.90
#> healserv    0.42 0.40  0.90

Under overlap()’s hood

The output reveals the news: overlap() added a couple of variables to disjoint()’s fragments. But what happens inside the machinery? Well, first overlap() finds all items in the data frame that are not part of the given fragment. Let’s call that bundle its counterpart. Think of the counterpart as all variables in the specified data frame minus the items within the fragment. Accordingly, for scl_1, the counterpart is made up of newsppr, tv, healserv, munadmin, uni and police. The second step is merely a repetition. overlap() starts the previously described scaling procedure in each case over again. It thus continuously enriches each fragment with the according items from the counterpart – as long as the correlation between the sum-score of all items and any other item is higher than the specified mrit_min = 0.4. To put it another way, overlap() takes the disjoint fragments as its basis when trying to extend each of them. That is why the default option is called overlap_with = "fragments".

Note: Additionally, overlap() provides the option to choose only the highest positively correlating pair of each scale fragment (overlap_with = "core"). Type ?overlap for more details.

A small excursion

Let me cite one additional result in form of a question. Did you realize that both fragments (scl_1 and scl_2) include exactly the same variables? The scales did actually replicate. This hints to unidimensionality. For more on this consult the reference section.

lapply(list(msdf = mosdf$scl_1, mosdf = mosdf$scl_2), colnames)
#> $msdf #> [1] "eupalmnt" "eucomisn" "polpati" "fedgovt" "bundtag" "judsyst" #> [7] "fccourt" "police" "newsppr" "tv" "uni" "munadmin" #> [13] "healserv" #> #>$mosdf
#>  [1] "newsppr"  "tv"       "polpati"  "eucomisn" "eupalmnt" "fedgovt"
#>  [7] "bundtag"  "judsyst"  "fccourt"  "police"   "uni"      "munadmin"
#> [13] "healserv"

A quick summary

All right, let’s pull it all together now. From the last two outputs you might have already guessed the bread and butter of overlap()’s operating principles. The function enhances the disjoint scaling approach by gradually applying its underlying algorithm to multiple disjoint fragments. For the extension itself the function considers only items from the according counterpart. That is what we have seen so far. But now we need to move on and further discuss the emergence of the duplicates across scales.

Multiple memberships – duplicates across scales

Let me present the key idea in a nutshell: Even if a particular item is already part of scl_1 it still meets the preset inclusion criterion in scl_2. So why not tagging it relevant for the developing scale, too? Well, that is precisely what overlap() does. This insight is twofold. (1) It points out the key mechanism when setting mrit_min: The more fragments disjoint() produces the more reason you give overlap() to pick up on (and expand) those pieces. It now goes without saying that we use only reasonable items for the extension (i.e., those items from the counterpart which meet the inclusion requirements). (2) We could actually overcome disjoint()’s disjointedness. If this sounds like science-fiction talk visit the references for more background.

Conclusion

The last last steps made us stumble upon a real benefit of this approach. The achievement is best documented in the previous example: The scales replicated. The reason is, Exploratory Likert Scaling does not induce differences as natural part of the procedure itself. To put it another way, although disjoint() smashes a data set, elisr provides a way out of the self-induced disjointedness – overlap(). That is why overlap() is not only a possibility to explore how the scales reunite, but a way to monitor how each scale evolve. Remember mrit, rbar, and alpha(?).

An all-in-one snippet

What we know so far is that, even though we crushed the list of items using disjoint(), we permitted overlap() to further process it. Note, that if we forced the fragments to be different beforehand, we would have masked the replication discovery itself. Breaking and reuniting often goes hand in hand, therefor we should learn how to combine the use of disjoint() and overlap() next.

msdf <- overlap(
disjoint(df = trust, mrit_min = 0.55),
mrit_min = 0.4
)

Further analysis of the trust items

In everyday research, one will usually fall over reversed items. Such variables are broadly used to diminish response bias and reveal themselves generally through a negative correlation in the correlation matrix. Because there are no reversed variables in trust we need to make up an artificial one.

ntrust <- within(trust, uni <- 8 - uni)

What this code does, is to subtract 8 from each value in uni, reassign it and store the result in a new data frame called ntrust. From here, we can start all over again using our all-in-one snippet. The only thing we need to add is negative_too = TRUE and specify the start- and endpoint of the scale (as a two element vector c(1,7)). But before we start, a word on the upcoming gambit: First, we should try replicate the results from the previous analysis to understand the machinery. Then, we can soften the regulations to become aware of the gained flexibility. But let’s move in a smoothed pace one step at the time.

negative_too = TRUE & sclvals

To repeat the previous results, we need to re-reverse uni. disjoint() lends you a hand with that. There are two arguments you need to manipulate (see args(disjoint)): Set (1) negative_too = TRUE and (2) sclvals. sclvals catches the start- and endpoint of your set of items. For example, the trust data set ranges between 1 (no trust at all) and 7 (great deal of trust). In practice, this means: sclvals = c(1,7).

(d <- disjoint(ntrust, mrit_min = 0.55, negative_too = TRUE, sclvals = c(1, 7)))
#>
#> disjoint() didn't reverse an item.
#> $scl_1 #> mrit rbar alpha #> eupalmnt, eucomisn 0.92 0.92 0.96 #> polpati 0.64 0.72 0.89 #> fedgovt 0.68 0.67 0.89 #> bundtag 0.70 0.64 0.90 #> judsyst 0.58 0.59 0.90 #> fccourt 0.58 0.55 0.90 #> #>$scl_2
#>             mrit rbar alpha
#> newsppr, tv 0.67 0.67   0.8

disjoint() did not reverse an item? Right, that move was a bit unfair. But as we know from prior analyses, uni is not included in any of disjoint()’s fragments. So we should actually not expect disjoint() to reverse it. However, if uni is not part a fragment it might be soaked up with overlap(). So let’s move on. Because we stored the disjoint()’s result in d, we can simply stick it into overlap(). But do not forget to tell overlap() that it has permission to include reversed items. For convenience, you don’t need to specify sclvals twice. overlap() remembers the start- and endpoint you set with disjoint() (see attributes(d)$sclvals). overlap(d, # Note: overlap() remembers the scaling values from disjoint() mrit_min = 0.4, negative_too = TRUE, sclvals = c(1, 7) ) #> #> overlap() reversed the following item(s): #> - uni #>$scl_1
#>                    mrit rbar alpha
#> eupalmnt, eucomisn 0.92 0.92  0.96
#> polpati            0.64 0.72  0.89
#> fedgovt            0.68 0.67  0.89
#> bundtag            0.70 0.64  0.90
#> judsyst            0.58 0.59  0.90
#> fccourt            0.58 0.55  0.90
#> police             0.52 0.52  0.90
#> newsppr            0.52 0.49  0.90
#> tv                 0.52 0.47  0.90
#> uni                0.49 0.45  0.90
#> healserv           0.42 0.40  0.90
#>
#> $scl_2 #> mrit rbar alpha #> newsppr, tv 0.67 0.67 0.80 #> polpati 0.48 0.51 0.76 #> eucomisn 0.57 0.49 0.80 #> eupalmnt 0.73 0.53 0.85 #> fedgovt 0.67 0.53 0.87 #> bundtag 0.69 0.53 0.89 #> judsyst 0.58 0.51 0.89 #> fccourt 0.57 0.49 0.90 #> police 0.52 0.47 0.90 #> uni 0.49 0.45 0.90 #> munadmin 0.47 0.43 0.90 #> healserv 0.42 0.40 0.90 Note: I tried to design both functions to act very user-friendly. disjoint() and overlap() will both let you know, if they reverse a variable. And if so, which one. Another made up (but auto-didactic) example In the following snippet I reversed a core item of the second fragment. Make predictions of what will happen and why. Keep them in mind and see if they match the following output. ntrust <- within(trust, tv <- 8 - tv) overlap( disjoint(ntrust, mrit_min = 0.55, negative_too = TRUE, sclvals = c(1, 7)), mrit_min = 0.4, negative_too = TRUE) #> #> disjoint() didn't reverse an item. #> #> overlap() reversed the following item(s): #> - tv #>$scl_1
#>                    mrit rbar alpha
#> eupalmnt, eucomisn 0.92 0.92  0.96
#> polpati            0.64 0.72  0.89
#> fedgovt            0.68 0.67  0.89
#> bundtag            0.70 0.64  0.90
#> judsyst            0.58 0.59  0.90
#> fccourt            0.58 0.55  0.90
#> police             0.52 0.52  0.90
#> newsppr            0.52 0.49  0.90
#> tv                 0.52 0.47  0.90
#> uni                0.49 0.45  0.90
#> healserv           0.42 0.40  0.90

Different types of scales

There are three different types of scales which disjoint() and overlap() can handle. They all have in common that the underlying variables are real numeric vectors in R (either integers or objects of type double, see ?typeof). If you enable the negative_too = TRUE option elisr’s wizards reverse:

1. Numeric scales starting at 1 (e.g., “1 2 3 4 5 6 7”). Both functions use the formula $$(\max sclval + 1) - x$$ when setting scalvals = c(1,7) in this case.

2. Numeric scales starting at 0 (e.g., "0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7). The formula I used is $$\max sclval - x$$. Set sclvals = c(0,7).

3. Numeric scales starting below 0 (e.g., “-3 -2 -1 0 -1 -2 -3”). The workhorse bases simply on the formula x * (-1). Set sclvals = c(-3,3).

In my experience, those three options cover a wide range of applications. Keep in mind, however, that the various input possibilities do not stop with the above-mentioned examples. The only thing holding you back is defined by the logic of the reversing rule itself. But within that range, you are free to enter whatever you like.

Handle items with varying start- and endpoints

To be clear, elisr offers no way to tackle the start-endpoint issue internally. You have to face and overcome this obstacle yourself. But it is worth mentioning that neither overlap() nor disjoint() will complain. They silently obey and apply the algorithm to the given list of variables.

Sometimes you will have a concrete idea of how a fragment looks like. In this case you want to predetermine the fragment and let overlap() soak up additional variables afterward. Prespecifying the variables that form your fragment is straight forward. However, the steps you need to perform differ slightly from those used so far. If you want to predetermine a fragment, just pass the reduced version of your data frame to disjoint() – but now set mrit_min = 0. The second crux is to overwrite disjoint()’s data frame attribute with the full list of variables you want to do the overlap with. Hand the modified object over to overlap() and that is it. If you are interested in why this additional step is necessary, read the note.

frag <- trust[c("tv", "bundtag", "fccourt")]
pre <- disjoint(df = frag, mrit_min = 0)
#> Warning: mrit_min = 0: fragment is pre-determined.
# overlap() uses this attribute to build the counterpart
attributes(pre)$df <- trust (msdf <- overlap(pre, mrit_min = 0.4)) #>$scl_1
#>                  mrit rbar alpha
#> fccourt, bundtag 0.58 0.58  0.74
#> tv               0.35 0.40  0.67
#> fedgovt          0.67 0.46  0.77
#> polpati          0.65 0.48  0.82
#> eucomisn         0.67 0.49  0.85
#> eupalmnt         0.75 0.51  0.88
#> judsyst          0.63 0.50  0.89
#> newsppr          0.58 0.49  0.90
#> police           0.52 0.47  0.90
#> uni              0.49 0.45  0.90
#> healserv         0.42 0.40  0.90

Note: By running disjoint() on a subset of trust items, the function memorizes frag from your call as its data frame attribute (see attributes(pre)$df). The moment you commission overlap(), the function accesses disjoint()’s attributes. In this case overlap() tries to evaluate df = core. Why? Remember that overlap() needs an idea of the variables it has to consider for the extension. To find inspiration, it evaluates the df argument and separates the items within the given fragment from those left in the data frame. But because the variables in the fragment are equal to those in the data set, its counterpart is empty. In other words, there are no items to extend the fragment with. If we set this attribute manually however, we sneak in a bunch of new variables and thus instruct overlap() to pick up items from the newly defined object (in this case trust). Warning Please be aware that predetermining fragments is an advanced application. It is a serious change in elisr’s internal mechanism, because you bypass a great bunch of internal security measures. So, assure that at least the predetermined variables are a real subset of the data frame you have planned to assign as an attribute. Working with the results In the previous chapters I mentioned print.msdf(). Remember, the idea was to make use of the fact, that R internally wraps msdf in print() and intervene into this process. print() now passes the work on to the print.msdf(), which presents the result as follows: (msdf <- overlap( disjoint(ntrust, mrit_min = 0.55, negative_too = TRUE, sclvals = c(1, 7)), # Note: overlap() remembers the scaling values from disjoint() mrit_min = 0.4, negative_too = TRUE )) #> #> disjoint() didn't reverse an item. #> #> overlap() reversed the following item(s): #> - tv #>$scl_1
#>                    mrit rbar alpha
#> eupalmnt, eucomisn 0.92 0.92  0.96
#> polpati            0.64 0.72  0.89
#> fedgovt            0.68 0.67  0.89
#> bundtag            0.70 0.64  0.90
#> judsyst            0.58 0.59  0.90
#> fccourt            0.58 0.55  0.90
#> police             0.52 0.52  0.90
#> newsppr            0.52 0.49  0.90
#> tv                 0.52 0.47  0.90
#> uni                0.49 0.45  0.90
#> healserv           0.42 0.40  0.90

The question is, why am I telling you all this? Well, to work with the results you need to understand that what you see is not what you actually get. print()’s version of overlap()’s and disjoint()’s output is truly a bunch of summary statistics applied to it (see ?print.msdf). To put it another way, disjoint()’s and overlap()’s outcomes are hidden by this internal printing mechanism. But you can break through this process by addressing one of msdf’s elements directly. This procedure will reveal the internally sorted (and in this case partially reversed, plus extended) data list. To keep things organized, the following output shows only the first six values (see ?head) of msdf’s component one: scl_1.

head(msdf$scl_1) #> eupalmnt eucomisn polpati fedgovt bundtag judsyst fccourt police newsppr tv #> 1 4 3 4 5 5 3 7 5 6 7 #> 2 4 4 1 2 4 3 5 5 4 3 #> 3 4 4 5 6 6 6 6 5 4 4 #> 4 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 3 1 1 #> 5 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 2 1 1 #> 6 5 NA 4 6 5 4 5 7 3 4 #> uni munadmin healserv #> 1 4 5 6 #> 2 5 5 5 #> 3 5 3 6 #> 4 3 3 6 #> 5 5 4 5 #> 6 4 7 5 Note: There is one tiny thing I want to point out in addition. Look at tv. It is reversed now. Hence, the reversing process was successful. If you want to prove that, just compare the outcome to previous results in this section and you will see that they are identical (type: overlap(disjoint(trust, mrit_min = 0.55), mrit_min = 0.4). In a nutshell: disjoint() and overlap() both keep the reversed form of their variables. This behavior is thought to make further analysis as convenient as possible. Further analysis of the result is mandatory, remember? That is why I made the functions translate the actual output into an object type most connecting packages can handle. My suggestion is a data.frame. To become aware of the data.frame inside msdf, type msdf$scl_1 and we break through its inherent structure.

class(msdf\$scl_1)
#> [1] "data.frame"

A final unequivocal statement on elisr’s results

I want to be clear on this point: What you really get from applying disjoint() and overlap() is an intermediate. A good hint is mrit. mrit is, the marginal corrected item-total correlation. Remember what that means – the relationship between the sum-score of the items in a fragment at some specific point of the scale development process and the item which is considered for admission. Hence, the output represents the construction from a bottom-up perspective. To put it another way, when building scales from scratch mrit, rbar, and alpha keep track of the development progress, summarizing the gradually emerging scales based on the principles of classical test theory. However, these results can differ significantly from a more comprehensive (reliability) analysis of the proposed scale(s). With this in mind, I will end the manual with a place to (re-)start.

A place to restart

There are several options to continue. But the one which I find most appealing is part of the psych package. The object of desire is called alpha(). This neat function provides a bunch of helpful diagnostic information on the proposed scale(s). The snippet below checks if psych is present and gives advise on how to proceed. Just copy and run the code.

if (requireNamespace("psych", quietly = TRUE)) {
cat("psych is present. Ready to go!\n")
} else {
cat("Please install the psych package to continue, type:\n")
message("install.packages('psych')")
}
#> psych is present. Ready to go!

Once you have installed and loaded psych, there are two (well, actually three) additional things you need to do. First, store the result of the exploratory analysis into an object of choice. Second, hand the proposed scale over to alpha(). Third, type ?alpha() and get used to it. Its man page is a good place to (re-)start and alpha()’s vignette can further equip your data-analytic toolbox for the upcoming analysis. Since msdf already offers a scale to analyze, you can jump right into action. Consider for example msdf’s scl_1 to continue.

This is a perfect place to stop. I am sure, you have gained enough understanding, to confidently perform analysis in this framework. By working through the examples above, you have grasped what is going on under elisr’s hood, and did also encounter some benefits of this approach. However, if you want to become more acquainted with the heuristic potential that lays out with this approach, do not overlook the references below.

References

Müller-Schneider, Thomas. 2001. “Multiple Skalierung Nach Dem Kristallisationsprinzip / Multiple Scaling According to the Principle of Crystallization.” Zeitschrift Für Soziologie 30 (4): 305–15. https://doi.org/doi:10.1515/zfsoz-2001-0404.