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Estimating college student behavior frequencies: Do vague and enumerated estimation strategies yield similar results?

James S. Cole (Center for Postsecondary Research, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA)
Ali Korkmaz (Accord Institute for Education Research, Westminster, California, USA)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Article publication date: 19 April 2013



Surveys that collect data regarding behavior estimates are found in many fields including, but not limited to, those that conduct consumer research, health studies, sexual behavior, drug use, political polls, and many types of education studies. These studies typically use either vague behavioral quantifiers as the response set, or enumerated response sets where the respondent needs to select or tally the target behavior, or a combination of both types. This study aimed to investigate the relationship between these two methods of estimating educationally related behaviors.


Data for this study was taken from the 2010 administration of Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement (BCSSE), which is administered to incoming first‐year students. Respondents included 30,964 first‐year entering students from 81 higher education institutions in the USA. Data analysis was then carried out.


This study found that the more frequent the behavior, the shorter the time frame the respondent uses when estimating the behavior using enumerated strategies. In addition, this study showed that for many educationally relevant behaviors vague quantifiers are associated with increasing enumerated responses for the same behavior showing that two behavioral estimates are providing consistent estimations of the same behavior. Another equally important finding is that there were few meaningful group differences regarding these estimates.


Overall, the results from this study shed new light on interpreting behavior estimations using vague and enumerated responses.



Cole, J.S. and Korkmaz, A. (2013), "Estimating college student behavior frequencies: Do vague and enumerated estimation strategies yield similar results?", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 58-71.



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