Does Information Systems Research Need Formative Measurement?



The use of structural equation modeling based on the formative measurement has been increasing in the IS community. However, there has been the lack of discussions on the merits/demerits of formative measurement despite its requisite limitations in theory testing and knowledge build-up. Based on real survey data, we conducted rigorous empirical tests to uncover implications of formative measurement associated with interpretational compounding and weak external consistency. The findings are resounding: (1) The formative approach resulted in a significant interpretational compounding in which standardized weights of the measures of a formative construct widely fluctuated according to the change of dependent constructs; (2) The estimation of formative models is not necessarily consistent with the degree of external consistency highlighting the limitation of positioning the formative construct as a mediating, point variable; and (3) Formative models consistently inflated path coefficients and model fit indices increasing the chance of Type 1 error.


 Theoretical discussions
  Interpretational Confounding
  External Consistency
 Empirical demonstration
  Interpretational Confounding
  External Consistency


  • Gimun Kim Department of E-Commerce and International Trade, Konyang University, Korea
  • Bongsik Shin Information and Decision Systems, San Diego State University, USA
  • Varun Grover Department of Management, Clemson University, USA


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