Sources and Examples of Operational Definitions

GSS Data Explorer (

Use the link above to explore GSS questions for a range of topics. In the upper right box, find “Filter by Subject.” Opposite “Choose Subjects,” click on the circled + sign. This will reveal a long list of subjects that you may search by clicking on the appropriate box and hitting “SEARCH.” By clicking on the variable name, you can see wording of the GSS question and the survey years when the question is available.

Statistical Abstracts: State Rankings (

This page from the Census Bureau’s 2012 Statistical Abstract contains links to statistics and state rankings on a variety of aggregate measures such as the violent crime rate, unemployment rate, doctors per 100,000 population, median household income, and percent of persons below poverty level. Table footnotes contain links to information about definitions and data sources.

The State of the World’s Children 2009 (

Another source of aggregate measures is UNICEF’s annual reports on The State of the World’s Children, which examine key issue affecting children. For example, the 2009 report focused on maternal and newborn health; the 2013 report focused on children with disabilities. Each report includes statistical tables with extensive documentation of the indicators. This page from the 2009 Report provides links to statistical tables with various economic and social indicators on children’s well-being from countries and territories around the world. Footnotes to the tables contain the main data sources and definitions of the indicators. Among the indicators in the table on “education,” for example, are adult literacy rate, net primary school attendance, and primary school entrants who reach the last grade of primary school. Demographic indicators include crude death rate, crude birth rate, life expectancy, and fertility rate.