Construct validity—Current issues and recommendations for future hand hygiene research

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Abstract

Health care–associated infection is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Hand hygiene is widely regarded as an effective prevention strategy. Often, hand hygiene research is designed and conducted by health care practitioners who may lack formal training in research methods, particularly in the area of social science. In a research context, a construct is a concept that can be measured or observed in some way. A construct can be directly or indirectly measured. For example, height can be directly measured by centimeters, whereas depression can be indirectly measured by a scale of 20 items. Every construct needs to be operationalized by measure(s) to make it a variable. Hence, construct validity refers to the degree of fit between the construct of interest and its operational measure. However, issues with construct validity often weaken the translation from construct to measure(s). This article will (1) describe the common threats to construct validity pertaining to hand hygiene research, (2) identify practical limitations in current research design, and (3) provide recommendations to improve construct validity in future hand hygiene research. By understanding how construct validity may affect hand hygiene research design, there is great potential to improve the validity of future hand hygiene research findings.

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