Research terminologies and their definitions. The purpose of these research terminologies and their definitions is to help novice (a person new to and inexperienced in a job or situation) researchers understand the basics. It provides definitions of many of the terms used in the guidebooks for conducting qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods of research. The terms are arranged in alphabetical order.
Research terminologies and their definitions
❖ Attrition: The loss of sample members over time from a longitudinal study or experimental research with follow-up tests.
❖ Audit Trail: The systematic presentation of material gathered within a naturalistic study that allows others to follow and audit the researcher’s thinking and conclusions about the data.
❖ Autonomy: The capacity to think, decide, and act on the basis of such thought and decision freely and independently and without let or hindrance.
❖ Average: A single value (mean, median, mode) representing the typical, normal, or middle value of a set of data.
❖ Average Measures: There are three main measures of the average of a set of numerical data. These are the mode, the median, and the mean.
❖ Axiom: A statement widely accepted as truth.
❖ Affective Measures procedures or devices used to obtain quantified descriptions of an individual’s feelings, emotional states, or dispositions.
❖ Age-equivalent score A score that indicates the age level for which a particular performance (score) is typical.
❖ Aggregate a total created from smaller units. For instance, the population of a county is an aggregate of the populations of the cities, rural areas, etc. that comprise the county. As a verb, it refers to total data from smaller units into a large unit.
❖ Alpha Level The probability that a statistical test will find significant differences between groups (or find significant predictors of the dependent variable), when in fact there are none.
❖ Alternating-treatment design A single-subject design for studying two or more treatments.
❖ Alternative Hypothesis The experimental hypothesis states that there is some real difference between two or more groups. It is the alternative to the null hypothesis, which states that there is no difference between groups.
❖ Anecdotal records Records of observed behaviors written down in the form of anecdotes. The best anecdotes tell exactly what the participant did or said without making evaluative statements in the process of reporting this information.
❖ Anonymity a research condition in which no one, including the researcher, knows the identities of research participants.
❖ Anonymity: The identity of the research participant remains unknown and is not linked with the information provided by the participant.
❖ Appetency Clear, understandable representation of the data
❖ Aptitude test An instrument used to predict performance in a future situation.
❖ Association A relationship between objects or variables.
❖ Association: A relationship between objects and variables.
❖ Associational research A general type of research in which a researcher looks for relationships having predictive and/or explanatory power. Both correctional and causal-comparative studies are examples.
❖ Assumption Any important assertion presumed to be true but not actually verified; major assumptions should be described in one of the first sections of a research proposal or report.
❖ Attitude scale A set of statements to which the participant responds.
❖ Attrition The rate at which participants drop out of a longitudinal study. If particular types of study participants drop out faster than other types of participants, it can introduce bias and threaten the internal validity of the study.
❖ Abstract A brief summary of a research project and its findings. A summary of a study that describes its most important aspects, including major results and conclusions.
❖ Accessible population The population from which the researcher can realistically select subjects for a sample, and to which the researcher is entitled to generalize findings.
❖ Acculturation refers to the process of adapting to another culture, particularly in reference to blending in with the majority population [e.g., an immigrant adopting American customs].
❖ Achievement test An instrument used to measure the proficiency level of individuals in given areas of knowledge or skill.
❖ Action plan A plan to implement change as a result of an action research study.
❖ Action research A type of research focused on a specific local problem and resulting in an action plan to address the problem.
❖ Adjusted R-Squared: A measure of how well the independent, or predictor, variables predict the dependent, or outcome, variable.
❖ Administrative Data: Information about individual children, families, and/or providers of early care and education and other family benefits that are collected and maintained as part of the operation of government programs.
❖ Adult Supervisor An adult who oversees a student experiment. This person should be familiar with the student’s project and the student’s area of research.
❖ Bibliography A list of the books referred to in a research project. It usually appears at the end, or as a separate section, known as an appendix.
❖ Bimodal Distribution A distribution in which two scores are the most frequently occurring scores.
❖ Biography/biographical study A form of qualitative research in which the researcher works with the individual to clarify important life experiences.
❖ Bootstrapping A popular method for variance estimation in surveys. It consists of subsampling from the initial sample. Within each stratum in the sample, a simple random subsample is selected with replacement.
❖ Bracketing A process used by researchers working within the Husserlian phenomenological tradition to identify their preconceived beliefs and opinions about the phenomenon under investigation in order to clarify how personal biases and experience might influence what is seen heard and reported.
❖ Background question Question asked by an interviewer or on a questionnaire to obtain information about a respondent’s background (age, occupation, etc.).
❖ Bar graph A graphic way of illustrating differences among groups.
❖ Baseline a control measurement carried out before an experimental treatment.
❖ Behaviorism school of psychological thought concerned with the observable, tangible, objective facts of behavior, rather than with subjective phenomena such as thoughts, emotions, or impulses. Contemporary behaviorism also emphasizes the study of mental states such as feelings and fantasies to the extent that they can be directly observed and measured.
❖ Beliefs ideas, doctrines, tenets, etc. that are accepted as true on grounds which are not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof.
❖ Bell curve A frequency distribution statistics. Normal distribution is shaped like a bell.
❖ Bell-shaped curve A curve characteristic of a normal distribution, which is symmetrical about the mean and extends infinitely in both directions. The area under curve=1.0.
❖ Benchmarking systematically measuring and comparing the operations and outcomes of organizations, systems, processes, etc., against agreed-upon “best-in-class” frames of reference.
❖ Beta Level The probability of making an error when comparing groups and stating that differences between the groups are the result of the chance variations when in reality the differences are the result of the experimental manipulation or intervention.
❖ Between-Group Variance A measure of the difference between the means of various groups.
❖ Between-Subject Design Experimental design in which a different group of subjects are used for each level of the variable under study.
❖ Bias a loss of balance and accuracy in the use of research methods. It can appear in research via the sampling frame, random sampling, or non-response. It can also occur at other stages in research, such as while interviewing, in the design of questions, or in the way data are analyzed and presented. Bias means that the research findings will not be representative of, or generalizable to, a wider population.
❖ Case Study the collection and presentation of detailed information about a particular participant or small group, frequently including data derived from the subjects themselves.
❖ Case Study An intensive investigation of the current and past behaviors and experiences of a single person, family, group, or organization.
❖ Case Study The collection and presentation of detailed information about a particular participant or small group, frequently including the accounts of the subjects themselves.
❖ Categorical Data Variables with discrete, non-numeric, or qualitative categories (e.g. gender or marital status). The categories can be given numerical codes, but they cannot be ranked, added, multiplied, or measured against each other. Also referred to as nominal data. ❖ Categorical variables (variables) that differ only in kind, not in amount or degree.
❖ Causal Analysis An analysis that seeks to establish the cause and effect relationships between variables.
❖ Causal Explanation: An attempt to explain the occurrence of a particular phenomenon or event by identifying the cause.
❖ Causal Hypothesis a statement hypothesizing that the independent variable affects the dependent variable in some way. ❖ Causal Model A model which represents a causal relationship between two variables.
❖ Causal Relationship the relationship established that shows that an independent variable, and nothing else, causes a change in a dependent variable. It also establishes how much of a change is shown in the dependent variable.
❖ Causal-comparative research Research to determine the cause for, or consequences of, existing differences in groups of individuals; also referred to as ex post facto research. Census An attempt to acquire data from each and every member of a population.
❖ Causality The relation between cause and effect.
❖ Ceiling The highest limit of performance that can be assessed or measured by an instrument or process. Individuals who perform near to or above this upper limit are said to have reached the ceiling, and the assessment may not be providing a valid estimate of their performance levels.
❖ Census The collection of data from all members, instead of a sample, of the target population.
❖ Central Limit Theorem A mathematical theorem that is central to the use of statistics. It states that for a random sample of observations from any distribution with a finite mean and a finite variance, the mean of the observations will follow a normal distribution. This theorem is the main justification for the widespread use of statistical analyses based on the normal distribution.
❖ Central Tendency any way of describing or characterizing typical, average, or common values in some distribution.
❖ Central Tendency: The central tendency of a frequency distribution is the average, middle or most common score. Measures of central tendency include the mean, the median and the mode.
❖ Chaos theory A theory and methodology of science that emphasizes the rarity of general laws, the need for very large data bases, and the importance of studying exceptions to overall patterns.
❖ Chi Square A statistic used when testing for associations between categorical, or non-numeric, variables. It is also used as a goodness-of-fit test to determine whether data from a sample come form a population with a specific distribution.
❖ Chi-square Analysis a common non-parametric statistical test which compares an expected proportion or ratio to an actual proportion or ratio.
❖ Chi-square test A non-parametric test of statistical significance appropriate when the data are in the form of frequency counts; it compares frequencies actually observed in a study with expected frequencies to see if they are significantly different.
❖ Citation: The act of acknowledging or documenting a reference source used in preparing an assignment, report or project. It is also described as documentation. A full citation lists accurate information about author, title, publication date and related facts. There are a number of different citation styles.
❖ Claim a statement, similar to a hypothesis, which is made in response to the research question and that is affirmed with evidence based on research.
❖ Classification ordering of related phenomena into categories, groups, or systems according to characteristics or attributes.
❖ Closed Question: The question is followed by predetermined response choices into which the respondent’s reply is placed.
❖ Closed-ended question A question and a list of alternative responses from which the respondent selects; also referred to as a closed-form item.
❖ Cluster Analysis a method of statistical analysis where data that share a common trait are grouped together. The data is collected in a way that allows the data collector to group data according to certain characteristics.
❖ Cluster Sampling A type of sample that is usually used when the target population is geographically disperse. First, clusters of potential respondents are randomly selected, and then respondents are selected at random from within the pre-identified clusters.
❖ Cluster sampling/cluster random sampling The selection of groups of individuals, called clusters, rather than single individuals. All individuals in a cluster are included in the sample; the clusters are preferably selected randomly from the larger population of clusters.
❖ Codebook Any information on the structure, content, and layout of a data set. The codebook typically provides background on the project, describes the data collection design, and gives detailed information on variable names and variable value codes.
❖ Codes Values, typically numeric, that are assigned to different levels of variables to facilitate analysis of the variable.
❖ Coding A procedure for transforming raw data into a standardized format for data analysis purposes. Coding qualitative data involves identifying recurrent words, concepts or themes. In positivist research, coding involves attaching numerical values to categories.
❖ Cohort A group of people sharing a common demographic experience who are observed through time. For example, all the people born in the same year constitute a birth cohort.
❖ Cohort Analysis group by group analytic treatment of individuals having a statistical factor in common to each group. Group members share a particular characteristic [e.g., born in a given year] or a common experience [e.g., entering a college at a given time]. ❖ Cohort study A design (in survey research) in which a particular population is studied over time by taking different random samples at various points in time. The population remains conceptually the same, but individuals.
❖ Collaboration: Research in which service users and careers are active partners and share some of the responsibilities and control. The opinions of service users and careers have equal weight with those of professionals and there is collaboration at every stage of the research process. ❖ Collective case study One that studies multiple cases at the same time.
❖ Comparability The quality of two or more objects that can be evaluated for their similarity and differences.
❖ Comparison group The group in a research study that receives a different treatment from that of the experimental group.
❖ Completion Rate In survey research, this is the proportion of qualified respondents who complete the interview.
❖ Computer search of the literature A method whereby key terms are used to locate research literature about a topic.
❖ Conclusions A brief summary of how the results of an experiment support or contradict a hypothesis.
❖ Confidentiality a research condition in which no one except the researcher(s) knows the identities of the participants in a study. It refers to the treatment of information that a participant has disclosed to the researcher in a relationship of trust and with the expectation that it will not be revealed to others in ways that violate the original consent agreement, unless permission is granted by the participant.
❖ Confidentiality: Protection of the identity of human participants and their individual responses from disclosure.
❖ Confirming sample In qualitative research; a sample selected to validate or extend previous findings.
❖ Conformability Objectivity the findings of the study could be confirmed by another person conducting the same study.
❖ Confounding Variable A variable that is not of interest, but which distorts the results if the researcher does not control for it in the analysis.
❖ Confounding Variable An unforeseen, an nd unaccounted-for variable that jeopardizes reliability and validity of an experiment’s outcome.
❖ Consent: The process whereby a patient freely agrees without coercion or pressure to be involved in a research project.
❖ Consistency The process in surveys whereby a question should be answered similarly to previous questions.
❖ Constant A value that stays the same for all the units of an analysis.
❖ Constant Comparative Method A procedure used during grounded theory research whereby newly gathered data are continually compared with previously collected data in order to refine the development of theoretical categories.
❖ Constitutive definition The explanation of the meaning of a term by using other words to describe what is meant.
❖ Construct A concept. A theoretical creation that cannot be directly observed.
❖ Construct Validity Seeks an agreement between a theoretical concept and a specific measuring device, such as observation.
❖ Construct Validity This refers to the degree to which a research instrument measures a theoretical concept (or construct) under investigation.
❖ Constructivism the idea that reality is socially constructed. It is the view that reality cannot be understood outside of the way humans interact and that the idea that knowledge is constructed, not discovered. Constructivists believe that learning is more active and self-directed than either behaviorism or cognitive theory would postulate.
❖ Consultation: Service users and carers are asked for their opinions or views. These are then taken into account but are not necessarily used. Service users and carers are seen as consultants who may have some influence but no control over the research.
❖ Content Analysis the systematic, objective, and quantitative description of the manifest or latent content of print or non-print communications.
❖ Content Analysis: The systematic analysis of observations obtained from records, documents and filed notes.
❖ Content Validity Similar to face validity except that the researcher deliberately targets individuals acknowledged to be experts in the topic area to give their opinions on the validity of the measure.
❖ Content Validity: The extent to which a test or assessment matches the real requirements of the situation.
❖ Context Effects The change in the dependent variable which is results from the influence of the research environment. This influence is external to the experiment itself. ❖ Context Sensitivity awareness by a qualitative researcher of factors such as values and beliefs that influence cultural behaviors.
❖ Contextualization Placing information/data into a larger perspective, especially in ethnography.
❖ Contingency coefficient An index of relationship derived from a cross break table.
❖ Contingency question A question whose answer depends on the answer to a prior question.
❖ Continuous Variable A variable that may have fractional values, e.g., height, weight and time.
❖ Control A duplicate setup, sample or observation treated identically to the rest of an experiment except for the variable being tested. And the control variable is meant to represent what’s normal or unchanged. For instance, if one wanted to see the effect of adding fertilizer to a plant’s soil, the control would be the growth of a plant with no fertilizer.
❖ Control Efforts on the part of the researcher to remove the effects of any variable other than the independent variable that might affect performance on a dependent variable.
❖ Control Group the group in an experimental design that receives either no treatment or a different treatment from the experimental group. This group can thus be compared to the experimental group.
❖ Control The processes of making research conditions uniform or constant, so as to isolate the effect of the experimental condition. When it is not possible to control research conditions, statistical controls often will be implemented in the analysis.
❖ Control Variable A variable that is not of interest to the researcher, but which interferes with the statistical analysis. In statistical analyses, control variables are held constant or their impact is removed to better analyze the relationship between the outcome variable and other variables of interest.
❖ Controlled Experiment A form of scientific investigation in which one variable, termed the independent variable, is manipulated to reveal the effect on another variable, termed the dependent or responding variable, while all other variables in the system are held fixed.
❖ Convenience samples A sample that is easily accessible.
❖ Convenience Sampling (also referred to as Accidental Sampling) A non-probability sampling strategy that uses the most easily accessible people (or objects) to participate in a study. Purposive/Purposeful sampling is a non-probability sampling strategy in which the researcher selects participants who are considered to be typical of the wider population (sometimes referred to as judgmental sampling).
❖ Convenience Sampling A sampling strategy that uses the most easily accessible people (or objects) to participate in a study. This is not a random sample, and the results cannot be generalized to individuals who did not participate in the research.
❖ Convergent Validity The general agreement among ratings, gathered independently of one another, where measures should be theoretically related.
❖ Cooperation Rate In survey research, this is the ratio of completed interviews to all contacted cases capable of being interviewed.
❖ Core Category The central category that is used to integrate all the categories identified in grounded research.
❖ Correlation a common statistical analysis, usually abbreviated as r, that measures the degree of relationship between pairs of interval variables in a sample. The range of correlation is from -1.00 to zero to +1.00. Also, a non-cause and effect relationship between two variables.
❖ Correlation The degree to which two variables are associated. Variables are positively correlated if they both tend to increase at the same time. For example, height and weight are positively correlated because as height increases weight also tends to increases. Variables are negatively correlated if as one increases the other decreases.
❖ Correlational research Research that involves collecting data in order to determine the degree to which a relationship exists between two or more variables.
❖ Counterbalanced design A design in which all groups receive all treatments. Each group receives the treatments in a different order, and all groups are post-tested after each treatment.
❖ Covariate a product of the correlation of two related variables times their standard deviations. Used in true experiments to measure the difference of treatment between them.
❖ Coverage In survey research, this is the process of selecting a sample of individuals that reflect the larger population that the researchers wish to describe
❖ Credibility a researcher’s ability to demonstrate that the object of a study is accurately identified and described based on the way in which the study was conducted.
❖ Criterion Related Validity Used to demonstrate the accuracy of a measuring procedure by comparing it with another procedure which has been demonstrated to be valid; also referred to as instrumental validity?
❖ Criterion variable The variable that is predicted in a prediction study; also any variables used to assess the criterion-related validity of an instrument.
❖ Criterion-referenced instrument An instrument that specifies a particular goal, or criterion, for students to achieve.
❖ Criterion-Related Validity This requires the researcher to identify a relevant criterion or ‘gold standard’, which is it reliable and valid, to provide an independent check of the new measure (i.e. to compare the results from a well-established and a new measuring instrument).
❖ Critical researchers Researchers who raise philosophical and ethical questions about the way educational research is conducted.
❖ Critical sample In qualitative research; a sample considered to be enlightening because it is unusual.
❖ Critical Theory an evaluative approach to social science research, associated with Germany’s neoMarxist “Frankfurt School,” that aims to criticize as well as analyze society, opposing the political orthodoxy of modern communism. Its goal is to promote human emancipatory forces and to expose ideas and systems that impede them.
❖ Critical Theory: In qualitative research, critical theory explains how personal meanings and actions are influenced by a person’s social environment.
❖ Cross-Sectional Data Data collected about individuals at only one point in time. This is contrasted with longitudinal data, which is collected from the same individuals at more than one point in time.
❖ Cross-sectional survey A survey in which data are collected at one point in time from a predetermined population or populations.
❖ Cross-Tabulation A method to display the relationship between two categorical variables. A table is created with the values of one variable across the top and the values of the second variable down the side. The numbers of observations that correspond to each cell of the table are indicated in each of the table cells.
❖ Cross-validation Validation of a prediction equation with at least one group other than the group on which it was based.
❖ Crystallization Occasions, especially in ethnography, when different kinds of data ‘fall in place’ to make a coherent picture.
❖ Culture The sum of a social group’s observable patterns of behavior and/or their customs, beliefs and knowledge.
See More on Research Methodology Category:
- Research Proposal – Concept and Components
- Phrasing Questionnaires
- Meaning of Work Study – Definition and Objectives
- Techniques of Analysis and Methodology of The Study
Research terminologies and their definitions
Cite as: Noori, A. (2021). Glossary of Key Terms in Educational Research. (ED611000). ERIC. http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED611000.pdf