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A proposed procedure for construct definition in marketing

David A. Gilliam (Department of Marketing, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA)
Kevin Voss (Department of Marketing, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 8 February 2013




Latent constructs represent the building blocks of marketing theory. The purpose of this paper is to provide marketing researchers with a practical procedure for writing construct definitions.


The paper reviews important contributions to construct definition in the literature from marketing, management, psychology and the philosophy of science. The authors expound construct definition in both practical and theoretical spheres to motivate the proposed procedure.


A six‐step procedure for construct definition and redefinition in marketing is developed. The proposed procedure addresses important aspects of definitions including the level of abstraction, scope, nomological relationships, explanatory and predictive power, ambiguity, vagueness, and preventing construct proliferation.

Research limitations/implications

While techniques for developing measures have received a great deal of attention, those for the earlier step of construct definition have not. Researchers will benefit from more precise definitions through improved model specification, better measures, and more reliable determination of the direction of causality. The role of the individual researcher's linguistic skill in construct definition must still be determined.

Practical implications

Marketing practitioners can also use the procedure to define latent constructs for which they must develop measures.


The literature on construct definition is fragmentary, scattered across disciplines and occasionally even arcane. It is further often descriptive of what a good definition looks like rather than prescriptive of how a good definition can be developed. The six steps are simple, broadly applicable, based on both theory and practical experience, consist of relatively few discrete steps, and feed directly into the modern measure development paradigm in marketing.



Gilliam, D.A. and Voss, K. (2013), "A proposed procedure for construct definition in marketing", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 47 No. 1/2, pp. 5-26.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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