Sample size planning for composite reliability coefficients: Accuracy in parameter estimation via narrow confidence intervals


Ken Kelley, Department of Management, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA. (email:


Composite measures play an important role in psychology and related disciplines. Composite measures almost always have error. Correspondingly, it is important to understand the reliability of the scores from any particular composite measure. However, the point estimates of the reliability of composite measures are fallible and thus all such point estimates should be accompanied by a confidence interval. When confidence intervals are wide, there is much uncertainty in the population value of the reliability coefficient. Given the importance of reporting confidence intervals for estimates of reliability, coupled with the undesirability of wide confidence intervals, we develop methods that allow researchers to plan sample size in order to obtain narrow confidence intervals for population reliability coefficients. We first discuss composite reliability coefficients and then provide a discussion on confidence interval formation for the corresponding population value. Using the accuracy in parameter estimation approach, we develop two methods to obtain accurate estimates of reliability by planning sample size. The first method provides a way to plan sample size so that the expected confidence interval width for the population reliability coefficient is sufficiently narrow. The second method ensures that the confidence interval width will be sufficiently narrow with some desired degree of assurance (e.g., 99% assurance that the 95% confidence interval for the population reliability coefficient will be less than W units wide). The effectiveness of our methods was verified with Monte Carlo simulation studies. We demonstrate how to easily implement the methods with easy-to-use and freely available software.