classical test theory, coefficient alpha, factor analysis, reliability, structural equation modeling, transient error



  1. Yang, Yanyun
  2. Green, Samuel B.


Sijtsma and van der Ark (2015) focused in their lead article on three frameworks for reliability estimation in nursing research: classical test theory (CTT), factor analysis (FA), and generalizability theory. We extend their presentation with particular attention to CTT and FA methods. We first consider the potential of yielding an overly negative or an overly positive assessment of reliability based on coefficient alpha. Next, we discuss other CTT methods for estimating reliability and how the choice of methods affects the interpretation of the reliability coefficient. Finally, we describe FA methods, which not only permit an understanding of a measure's underlying structure but also yield a variety of reliability coefficients with different interpretations. On a more general note, we discourage reporting reliability as a two-choice outcome-unsatisfactory or satisfactory; rather, we recommend that nursing researchers make a conceptual and empirical argument about when a measure might be more or less reliable, depending on its use.