Defining and communicating rural

Leslie R. Hawley, Natalie A. Koziol, James A. Bovaird

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Developing an operational definition of rural is a crucial component of rural education research. Although researchers have discussed the challenges of defining rural (e.g., Coladarci in J Res Rural Educ 22(3), 2007; Cromartie and Bucholtz in Amber Waves 6:28-34, 2008; Hart et al. in Am J Public Health 95:1149-1155, 2005; Howley et al. in J Res Rural Educ 20(18), 2005; Isserman in Int Reg Sci Rev 28:465-499, 2005), these discussions have generally been presented at a theoretical level or do not consider issues that occur once a definition has been chosen. Examples of existing definitions and suggested guidelines are needed to ensure researchers understand the importance of aligning their operational definition of rural with the context and goals of their study, as this alignment influences the generalizability of their findings. The purpose of this chapter is threefold. First, we aim to inform rural researchers of the variety of definitions used within policy and research by providing a description of the most common definitions available to education policy makers and researchers. Next, we provide empirical examples of the impact of the choice of rural definition on statistical results and substantive inferences. Finally, we discuss practices advocated by Koziol et al. (J Res Rural Educ 30(4), 2015) that outline how to identify a suitable definition of rural, and communicate the findings given the chosen definition. We conclude by providing recommendations for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRural Education Research in the United States
Subtitle of host publicationState of the Science and Emerging Directions
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9783319429403
ISBN (Print)9783319429380
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Communicating rural
  • Generalizability
  • Operational definition
  • Rural definitions
  • Rural policy
  • Rural research
  • Validity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Defining and communicating rural'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this