Starting at the beginning: an introduction to coefficient alpha and internal consistency

J Pers Assess. 2003 Feb;80(1):99-103. doi: 10.1207/S15327752JPA8001_18.


Cronbach's a is the most widely used index of the reliability of a scale. However, its use and interpretation can be subject to a number of errors. This article discusses the historical development of a from other indexes of internal consistency (split-half reliability and Kuder-Richardson 20) and discusses four myths associated with a: (a) that it is a fixed property of the scale, (b) that it measures only the internal consistency of the scale, (c) that higher values are always preferred over lower ones, and (d) that it is restricted to the range of 0 to 1. It provides some recommendations for acceptable values of a in different situations.

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Humans
  • Psychological Tests / standards
  • Psychological Tests / statistics & numerical data*
  • Reproducibility of Results*