General and specific measures in organizational behavior research: Considerations, examples, and recommendations for researchers


Timothy A. Judge, Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, U.S.A. E-mail:


Deliberation over and relative preference for general or specific (broad or narrow) constructs has long been an important issue in organizational behavior research. In this article, we provide a review of this general issue and some specific recommendations for researchers. We begin by discussing whether the general versus specific issue is an important debate and by discussing other underlying issues (the role of researcher preferences, distinction between reflective and formative indicators, and distinction between constructs and measures of constructs). Building on Chen's (this issue) analysis of core self-evaluations, we first discuss how the general–specific debate has progressed in core self-evaluations research. We then discuss three other important areas in which this debate has played out: intelligence, five-factor model of personality, and job attitudes. Finally, we offer a framework to help guide decisions about whether to utilize general measures, specific measures, or both and conclude by providing recommendations for the use of general and specific measures in organizational behavior research. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.