Glossary of Research Terms

Glossary of Research Terms
This glossary was written by the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists; however, the following terms are applicable to all areas of research. Please refer to this list when you come across a term that you're not familiar with, and let us know if you don't find it!

In science, engineering, industry and statistics, accuracy is the degree of conformity of a measured or calculated quantity to its actual, nominal, absolute, or some other reference, value. Precision characterizes the degree of mutual agreement or repeatability among a series of individual measurements, values, or results. Resource: Wikipedia

Applied Research
The investigation of some phenomena to discover whether its properties are appropriate to a particular need or want. In contrast, basic research investigates phenomena without reference to particular human needs and wants.
Resource: GLOSSARY
In mathematics, there are numerous methods for calculating the average or central tendency of a list of numbers. The most common method, and the one generally referred to simply as the average, is the arithmetic mean. Please see the table of mathematical symbols for explanations of the symbols used.
Resource: Wikipedia
Basic Research
Basic research is experimental and theoretical work undertaken to acquire new knowledge without looking for long-term benefits other than the advancement of knowledge.
Resource: Charles Sturt University
The extent to which a measurement, sampling, or analytic method systematically underestimates or overestimates the true value of an attribute. FOR EXAMPLE, words, sentence structure, attitudes, and mannerisms may unfairly influence a respondent's answer to a question. Bias in questionnaire data can stem from a variety of other factors, including choice of words, sentence structure, and the sequence of questions.
Resource: Bureau of Justice - Center for Program Evaluation
Cause and Effect
A form of analysis that examines the causes and consequences of events and ideas.
Resource: Glossary of useful terms
Random variation. Difference between the outcomes from a sample of the population and the true value obtained from looking at the outcomes from the entire population. Statistical methods are used to estimate the probability that chance alone accounts for the differences in outcomes.
Resource: Statistical significance
Clinical Practice Guideline
A systematically developed statement designed to assist clinician and patient decisions about appropriate health care for specific clinical circumstances.
Resource: Glossary of EBM Terms
Clinical Research
Study of drug, biologic or device in human subjects with the intent to discover potential beneficial effects and/or determine its safety and efficacy. Also called clinical study and clinical investigation.
Resource: West Coast Clinical Trials
Clinical trial
A carefully designed investigation of the effects of a drug, medical treatment, or device on a group of subjects.
Resource: HIV Glossary
A variety of socio-demographic characteristics that can be identified and used to categorize groups with shared behaviors or traits including: age; gender; ethnicity; income; and education. dependent variable
Resource: PRM 447
Dependent variable
In experimental research, the dependent variable is the variable presumed within the research hypothesis to depend on (be caused by) another variable (the independent variable); it is sometimes referred to as the outcome variable.
Resource: Research Methods Glossary
A variety of socio-demographic characteristics that can be identified and used to categorize groups with shared behaviors or traits including: age; gender; ethnicity; income; and education. dependent variable
Resource: PRM 447
Dependent variable
In experimental research, the dependent variable is the variable presumed within the research hypothesis to depend on (be caused by) another variable (the independent variable); it is sometimes referred to as the outcome variable.
Resource: Research Methods Glossary
Expert opinions
Expert opinions are peer-reviewed descriptive documents by acknowledged experts. The extent of agreement and synthesis of results will identify an expert opinion as a group consensus or an individual opinion.
External validity
The degree to which results of a study with a sample of subjects can be generalized to make statements about a much larger population of subjects.
Resource: Statistics glossary
Heterogeneity, heterogeneous
A heterogeneous compound, mixture, or other such object is one that consists of many different items, which are often not easily sorted or separated, though they are clearly distinct.
Resource: Wikipedia
Human subject
The FDA defines a "human subject" as an individual who is or becomes a participant in research, either as a recipient of the test article or as a control. A subject may either be a healthy human or a patient.
Resource: U of R, Glossary of research-related terms
A scientist's best estimation, based on scientific knowledge and assumptions, of the results of an experiment. It usually describes the anticipated relationship among variables in an experiment. The anticipated relationship between the dependent and independent variables is the result you expect when one variable reacts with another.
Resource: Lab Write Glossary
Independent Variables
A variable presumed to influence or precede another variable (dependent variable). The variable is systematically manipulated by the researcher to determine changes in the dependent variable. Also known as the experimental variable or moderating variable.
Resource: PRM 447
A method of data collection involving an interviewer asking questions of another person (a respondent) either face-to-face or over the telephone.
Resource: Research Methods Glossary
A mathematical average of a set of numbers or measurements, with the mean equaling the sum of the numbers divided by the number of units. The mean radius of the Moon, for example, is the average radius figured from multiple measurements.
Resource: Moonpedia
The middle number or item in a set of numbers or objects arranged from least to greatest, or the mean of the two middle numbers when the set has two middle numbers.
Resource: MOESC Mathematics Course of Study
The way in which information is found or something is done. The methodology includes the methods, procedures, and techniques used to collect and analyze information
Resource: EPA Evaluation Support
A descriptive statistic that is a measure of central tendency; it is the score/value that occurs most frequently in a distribution of scores.
Resource: Research Methods Glossary
Negative correlation
A relationship between two variables where higher values on one variable tend to be associated with lower values on the second variable; sometimes referred to as an inverse relationship (e.g. age of non-vintage cars and their market value).
Resource: Research Methods Glossary
NIH - National Institutes of Health
The steward of biomedical and behavioral research for the nation. Its mission is science in pursuit of fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to extend healthy life and reduce the burdens of illness and disability.
Resource: National Institutes of Health
Null Hypothesis
The proposal that no difference exists between groups or that there is no association between risk indicator and outcome variables. If the null hypothesis is true then the findings from the study are the result of chance or random factors. The overall purpose of a typical study is to "reject the null hypothesis." Another example: there is less than a 1 in 20 chance that the differences between treatments seen in this trial could have occurred by chance; less than a 1 in 20 chance that the null hypothesis is true.
Resource: Statistical significance
Observational studies
Observational studies include one or more subjects evaluated at a moment in or over a period of time. In observational studies, interventions are not applied by the researchers. Instead, outcomes and influencing factors are observed in order to draw correlations between them. The timing of the measurement(s), number of subjects, frequency of data collection, and type of data collected will identify an observational study as a cohort study, case-controlled study, cross-sectional study, qualitative method study, case series, or case study.
Resource: The American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (AAOP), State-of-the-Science Evidence Report Guidelines
A measure of how likely it is that some event will occur; a number expressing the ratio of favorable cases to the whole number of cases possible; "the probability that an unbiased coin will fall with the head up is 0.5"
Resource: WordNet Princeton
Qualitative data
Information gathered in narrative (nonnumeric) form (e.g. a transcript of an unstructured interview).
Resource: Research Methods Glossary
Qualitative Research
Research involving detailed, verbal descriptions of characteristics, cases, and settings. Qualitative research typically uses observation, interviewing, and document review to collect data.
Resource: Bureau of Justice Assistance
Qualitative study
A descriptive, observational study in which a subject group is evaluated through subjective, open-ended questions and interview techniques
Resource: The American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (AAOP), State-of-the-Science Evidence Report Guidelines
Quantitative Research
Research that examines phenomenon through the numerical representation of observations and statistical analysis.
Resource: Bureau of Justice Assistance
A method of assigning study treatment such that each participant has an equal chance of being assigned to each treatment or control group. Randomization guards against selection bias, that is, that specific criteria are used to assign patients to one group or another.
Resource: Duke Clinical Research Institute
The degree to which a source addresses a research topic (some relevant sources may be more broad or more narrow than the specific research topic.)
Resource: University Libraries Colorado
The probability of performing a specified function without failure under given conditions for a specified period of time.
Resource: Eurofix Glossary
The precision with which repeat measurements of the same sample give the same value with all conditions unchanged between measurements, except time.
Resource: Zygo Glossary of terms
Research Plan - Research Protocol
"Research plan" is a synonym for "research protocol". A research protocol consists of: Title of the research project Project summary Statement of the problem (scientific justification) Justification and use of the results (final objectives, applicability) Theoretical framework (argumentation, possible answers, hypothesis) Research objectives (general and specific) Methodology Type of study and general design Operational definitions (operationalization) Universe of study, sample selection and size, unit of analysis and observation. Selection and exclusion criteria Proposed intervention (if applicable) Data collection procedures, instruments used, and methods for data quality control Ethical considerations in research with human subjects Plan for analysis of results Methods and models of data analysis according to types of variables Programs to be used for data analysis Bibliographic references Timetable Budget Annexes
Resource: PAN Amarican Health Organization
Retrospective study
A study involving data that have already been collected (e.g. a chart review).
Resource: U of R, Glossary of research-related terms
A procedure used to choose subjects for research. Ideally, the participants chosen should be representative of the population being studied. (see Selecting Human Participants for Research) Example: If you are studying the behavior of gifted children, your sample should be drawn exclusively from this group.
Resource: Houghton Mifflin - College Division
The measurement of a variable in such a way that it can be expressed on a continuum. Rating your preference for a product from 1 to 10 is an example of a scale.
Resource: Wikipedia
In statistics, a result is called significant if it is unlikely to have occurred by chance. "A statistically significant difference" simply means there is statistical evidence that there is a difference; it does not mean the difference is necessarily large, important or significant in the usual sense of the word.
Resource: Wikipedia
A term most often used in positivist research to describe those who participate in research and provide the data.
Resource: Research Methods Glossary
Data collection techniques designed to collect standard information from a large number of subjects. Surveys may include polls, mailed questionnaires, telephone interviews, or face-to-face interviews.
Resource: BJA - Bureau of Justice Assistance
In its most general sense a theory describes or explains something. Often it is the answer to 'what', 'when', 'how', or 'why' questions.
Resource: Research Methods Glossary
In research terms, validity refers to the accuracy and truth of the data and findings that are produced. It refers to the concepts that are being investigated; the people or objects that are being studied; the methods by which data are collected; and the findings that are produced. There are several different types of validity.
Resource: Research Methods Glossary
Something that takes on different values that can be measured or counted. If one variable can be controlled exactly (such as the selling price of apples) then it is called an 'independent variable', while the remaining variable (in this case the number of apples bought) is called a 'dependent variable'
Resource: NOVA - Science in the News
In probability theory and statistics, the variance of a random variable is a measure of its statistical dispersion, indicating how far from the expected value its values typically are.
Resource: Wikipedia
Glossary compiled by:
American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists. Glossary of Research Terminology. Available at: Accessibility verified November 30, 2012.
Other references to check if this list does not contain the term you're looking for: