Can you please begin to explain to me the difference between how concepts are measured and a variable in social sciences research?
What is the difference between a variable and a concept. The homework assignment entailed. gathering 3 topics of interst from the General Social Survey. (I selected Death Penalty, Education, Race) would each of these items be considered the variable? and how would I go about measuring each concept? Are these items concepts or variables?
A concept is simply an idea. It is something that is fairly vague and it can be difficult to understand how to measure the concept. A variable is much more specific and concrete. It is a characteristic that can be measured and given some numerical value. Much of social sciences research involves identifying interesting concepts to study and then figuring out what variables you can use to measure that concept. You have to be sure that you have what is called "construct validity." That is, you have to be sure that you choose variables that actually measure the concept you are examining.
Of the things you mention, race can be seen as a variable. You can assign a numerical value to someone's race (for example, 1 for African American, 2 for Asian etc. if you go alphabetically). Education is more of a concept, though level of formal education is a variable because it can be easily measured based on what grade in school a person finished. The death penalty is neither a variable nor a concept, though there are concepts that are related to it (fairness of the death penalty, attitudes about the death penalty).
Without having your assignment in front of me I can't be sure, but I imagine what you are supposed to do is to come up with a concept that can be measured with variables from the three things you have selected. For example, you might have as your concept that elites are less likely than "common people" to support the death penalty. You could then have support for the death penalty as your dependent variable. You could use educational achievement as an indicator of "elite" status. You could then see if there was a higher degree of support for the death penalty among those without an elite level of education.