The theoretical DETECT index of dimensionality and its application to approximate simple structure

Jinming Zhang, William Stout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, a theoretical index of dimensionality, called the theoretical DETECT index, is proposed to provide a theoretical foundation for the DETECT procedure. The purpose of DETECT is to assess certain aspects of the latent dimensional structure of a test, important to practitioner and researcher alike. Under reasonable modeling restrictions referred to as "approximate simple structure", the theoretical DETECT index is proven to be maximized at the correct dimensionality-based partition of a test, where the number of item clusters in this partition corresponds to the number of substantively separate dimensions present in the test and by "correct" is meant that each cluster in this partition contains only items that correspond to the same separate dimension. It is argued that the separation into item clusters achieved by DETECT is appropriate from the applied perspective of desiring a partition into clusters that are interpretable as substantively distinct between clusters and substantively homogeneous within cluster. Moreover, the maximum DETECT index value is a measure of the amount of multidimensionality present. The estimation of the theoretical DETECT index is discussed and a genetic algorithm is developed to effectively execute DETECT. The study of DETECT is facilitated by the recasting of two factor analytic concepts in a multidimensional item response theory setting: a dimensionally homogeneous item cluster and an approximate simple structure test.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-249
Number of pages37
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Approximate simple structure
  • Dimensionality
  • Dimensionally homogeneous item cluster
  • Generalized compensatory model
  • Genetic algorithm
  • Item response theory
  • Latent space
  • Multidimensionality
  • Simple structure
  • Test space

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mathematics (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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