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Research definitions

Research - Keywords and Definitions
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blind study
In a blind study, the participants do not know whether they are in the control group, receiving no treatment, or the experimental group, receiving treatment. In a double-blind study, neither the participants in the control and experimental groups nor the investigator doing the research know who is receiving the treatment and who is not. See controlled studies.

characteristic of interest

Characteristic of interest is one one the critical elements of quantitative research design. Quantitative reseach refers to the collection and analysis of numerical data through processes such as polling, surveys and controlled studies. Quantitative research leads to statistical generalizations - i.e., conclusions of a predictive nature based on research data. Researchers undertaking a quantitative study must take into consideration the characteristic of interest - i.e., what researchers want to find out; the target population - i.e., whom researchers want to know about; and the sample - i.e., whom they should study to get accurate information about their entire target population.

control groupSee controlled study.

controlled study

A controlled study is one type of research that allows researchers to repeat the protocol - i.e., the design of the experiment or clinical trial. Controlled studies have to be repeated to verify the findings. In a controlled study, two randomly selected groups are used for comparison purposes. They are identified as the control group and the experimental group. The groups must be as alike as possible in all the important aspects that could affect the findings. The control group receives no treatment, or receives a placebo. The experimental group receives the treatment, called an independent variable, which may be manipulated by the researcher as part of the research. Results of the study may be significant if the only difference between the randomly selected control and experimental groups is the variable. However, results are not considered conclusive unless they are consistent as often as the study is repeated.

criteria for evaluating research

Criteria established for research design, research methods, and procedures for conducting different types of research set the standards for evaluating research. They help us determine whether or not to trust a report of research findings and conclusions. In addition to checking for the validity and reliability of the research, the individuals and organizations that produce and/or fund research must be checked for bias and conflict of interest. Also, research findings and/or conclusions may be claiming more than research data can support. Media reports of research studies may be informative and even reliable, but they may also be incomplete and/or biased, sometimes for sensational effect.

dependent variable

In research, a variable is anything that can change. An independent variable is the variable that the experimenter manipulates in a study - for example, drug, treatment, environment, etc. A dependent variable is measured in a study, but is not controlled by the researcher. For example, "gender" may be a variable, in which case "male" and "female" are attributes or sub-values of "gender." See controlled studies.

double-blind study

In a blind study, the participants do not know whether they are in the control group, receiving no treatment, or the experimental group, receiving treatment. In a double-blind study, neither the participants in the control and experimental groups nor the investigator doing the research know who is receiving the treatment and who is not. See controlled studies.

experimental group

See controlled study.
hypothesis

A research design includes a hypothesis - a speculation or specific statement regarding what is expected the research will discover. For example, six months of X treatment will reduce the incidence of Y behaviour by at least Z%.

independent variable

In research, a variable is anything that can change. An independent variable is the variable that the experimenter manipulates in a study - for example, drug, treatment, environment, etc. A dependent variable is measured in a study, but is not controlled by the researcher. For example, "gender" may be a variable, in which case "male" and "female" are attributes or sub-values of "gender." See controlled studies.

 meta-analysisIn statistics, meta-analysis or meta-studies refers to statistical methods for used to to retrieve, select, and combine results from previous separate but related studies. Processes of meta-analysis allow researchers to compare, contrast and combine results from different independent, randomized research studies. Using meta-analysis, researchers identify findings and patterns among study results, investigate sources of disagreement among those results, or enquire into interesting relationships that may come to light in the context of multiple studies. Meta-analysis is often used to investigate and assess the clinical effectiveness of healthcare procedures and interventions.


placebo

See controlled studies.
protocol

A research protocol is a procedural method that is documented to ensure that the research can be exactly replicated by others to test research findings. See controlled studies.

qualitative research

Qualitative research refers to the collection and analysis of non-numerical data through processes such as interviews, observations, focus groups, etc., to obtain an understanding of symptoms or behaviour that may confirm or add to previous research, or contribute new insights concerning the research topic. The researcher can then relate the data to case histories, organize the data according to known and new patterns and themes, and consider how the data may be used to generate new hypotheses.

quantitative research

Quantitative research refers to the collection and analysis of numerical data through processes such as polling, surveys and controlled studies. Quantitative research leads to statistical generalizations - i.e., conclusions of a predictive nature based on research data. For example, which candidate will most likely be elected? Which product or service will consumers most likely prefer? Quantitative research design takes into consideration the characteristic of interest - i.e., what researchers want to find out; the target population - i.e., whom researchers want to know about; and the sample - i.e., whom they should study to get accurate information about their entire target population.

reliability in research

Reliability in research refers to whether or not replication of the reseach design and procedures have produced comparable or consistent results. If the research is repeated and the findings are signiicantly different, the research findings and conclusions will not be reliable.

research conclusions

The term research conclusions refers to the researcher's interpretation of what is significant in the research findings. Research conclusions should be based on research findings. However, research conclusions may be biased and may overlook or ignore important findings.

research data

The term research data refers to the raw, unorganized, recorded elements collected through research. An objective analysis of data informs and validates research findings.

research design

A research design is the detailed plan the researcher will follow to collect and analyze data so that the information being investigated can be obtained. There are established requirements for research design, depending on the nature of the information being sought, and the types of investigation that will be required. For example, quantitative research, qualitative research, clinical trials and experiments involve different research methods, and different research designs. The scientific method is an example of established criteria for research design for clinical trials and experiments. A research design may also involve different research methods at different stages of the research.

A good research design requiring a controlled study is expected to include (1) the characteristic of interest or question the research will attempt to answer, (2) a hypothesis or statement of expected outcomes, (3) a randomly selected sample comprising a control group and an experimental group, and (4) the procedure for collecting and analyzing data. At the end of a well-designed research, the researcher will draw conclusions based on research findings, and may also include recommendations for further research or other actions.

research findings

The term research findings refers to the principal outcomes revealed or suggested at the end of a research project. Findings are not to be confused or used interchangeably with research data, research conclusions, or research recommendations. A researcher may overlook or ignore data or findings that are significant. In which case, they would not be taken into account in the research conclusions and recommendations.

research methods

A general understanding of differences between types and methods of research is necessary to evaluate results of research and to evaluate credibility in media reports on research studies. While types and methods of research tend to grouped under separate categories, when creating a research design, an investigator will select the research methods most suitable for the purposes and stages of the research. For an understanding of three broad categories of what we generally understand as research methods see the following Glossary items - qualitative research, quantitative research, and what is usually presented separately as "the scientific method."

research recommendations

The term research recommendations refers to the steps or processes suggested as an appropriate plan of action based on the researcher's conclusions about the significance of the research findings. Recommendations should be based on unbiased conclusions informed by significant research findings. However, recommendations may be influenced by factors unrelated to research findings.

sample

Sample is one one the critical elements of quantitative research design. Quantitative reseach refers to the collection and analysis of numerical data through processes such as polling, surveys and controlled studies. Quantitative research leads to statistical generalizations - i.e., conclusions of a predictive nature based on research data. Researchers undertaking a quantitative study must take into consideration the characteristic of interest - i.e., what researchers want to find out; the target population - i.e., whom researchers want to know about; and the sample - i.e., whom they should study to get accurate information about their entire target population.

scientific research method

A controlled study is one example of research where an investigator follows established steps in the scientific method. The researcher (1) identifies a problem and/or asks a question (2) makes an observation and does background research, (3) formulates a hypothesis and makes a prediction, (4) designs a controlled experiment to identify and measure variables, (5) collects and analyzes relevant data under controlled objective conditions to test the hypothesis, (6) accepts or rejects the hypothesis based on an objective analysis of the findings, (7) then revises the hypothesis or draws conclusions informed by research findings, and communicates the research results.

statistical generalization

Statistical generalizations are the predictive conclusions drawn as a result of a poll, survey, or controlled study, which are types of quantitative reseach - i.e., the collection and analysis of numerical data. For example, which candidate will most likely be elected? Which product or service will consumers most likely prefer?

Target populationTarget population is one one the critical elements of quantitative research design. Quantitative reseach refers to the collection and analysis of numerical data through processes such as polling, surveys and controlled studies. Quantitative research leads to statistical generalizations - i.e., conclusions of a predictive nature based on research data. Researchers undertaking a quantitative study must take into consideration the characteristic of interest - i.e., what researchers want to find out; the target population - i.e., whom researchers want to know about; and the sample - i.e., whom they should study to get accurate information about their entire target population.

validity in research

Validity refers to how well the research design and procedures actually measure what the researcher set out to measure. If the research is not well-designed, and if the tests, procedures, or instruments used to gather information are not adequate, the research findings and conclusions will not be valid.

variable

In research, a variable is anything that can change. An independent variable is the variable that the experimenter manipulates in a study - for example, drug, treatment, environment, etc. A dependent variable is measured in a study, but is not controlled by the researcher. For example, "gender" may be a variable, in which case "male" and "female" are attributes or sub-values of "gender." See controlled studies.
  

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