Basic Research Concepts: Additional Sections

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Glossary of Terms

This section includes definitions for the terms found in the text of this curriculum and additional terms that are relevant to the conduct of research.

Words that are highlighted in this list correspond with a green highlighted word in the text. When a user places their cursor over the highlighted word, a floating text box should appear that includes the definition of the word. There are also words that are included here in this glossary that do not appear in the text but are important research terms.

  • Analysis: The process of evaluating research results through the use of statistical or other procedures to make sense of the information collected during a research study.
  • Association: A connection or relationship between things.
  • Bias: Something that happens during the course of a study that is not part of the research protocol and which alters the results.
  • Control: An important element of a true experiment that prevents outside factors from influencing the results of the study.
  • Control group: A group in an experimental study, which serves as a comparison group. The experimental treatment, procedure or program is not given to those in the control group, leaving these participants to either receive the usual available care, or an alternative, such as a placebo.
  • Controlled condition: a highly regulated or restrained situation.
  • Cross sectional: A research study in which information is collected at one point in time.
  • Demographics: Personal information collected about an individual such as name, country of origin, birth date, race/ethnicity, occupation, education level and income level.
  • Dependent variable: "The outcomes that are measured in an experiment. Dependent variables are expected to change as a result of an experimental manipulation of the independent variable(s)." (Penslar & Porter, 2001).
  • Error: In a research study, this means anything that interferes with making a confident conclusion.
  • Ethical: In accordance with what is widely accepted as "right" or "wrong." In this curriculum, this applies to practices and standards of research conduct..
  • Focus group: A meeting with individuals in which a structured, group interview is conducted and information obtained from the interview is recorded and analyzed for research purposes.
  • Generalizable: This means that research results or patterns found in a sample population will also be found in the wider population which the sample represents.
  • Human subjects: "Individuals whose physiologic or behavioral characteristics and responses are the object of study in a research project. Under the federal regulations, human subjects are defined as: ‘living individual(s) about whom an investigator conducting research obtains (1) data through intervention or interaction with the individual, or (2) identifiable private information [Federal Policy §__.102(f)].'" (Penslar and Porter, 2001).
  • Hypothesis: A prediction or explanation about future data based on previously collected data.
  • Incentives: A motivation or inducement (inducement may be too complex), often monetary, that is provided to participants to encourage involvement in a research project.
  • Independent variable: "The condition of an experiment that is systematically manipulated by the investigator." (Penslar & Porter, 2001).
  • Informed consent process: The process of providing information about the research study to an individual so that he or she can make an informed decision about whether or not to participate in research. This is a process, which occurs throughout the length of the research study, beginning with recruitment and occurring periodically throughout the study.
  • Interview: An interaction that involves the researcher and the participant(s) in which questions are presented in person, over the telephone or even electronically (email or Internet).
  • Longitudinal: A research study that takes place over a significant period of time. Should we include that data collection occurs at multiple time points to help clarify how this is different from cross sectional?
  • Manipulation: A controlled change that is introduced by the research such as an alteration of the environment, a program or a treatment.
  • Multiple-choice survey: A form with questions in which an individual is provided with various options to choose as his/her response to the question.
  • Observations: Recordings that are taken of the participant without requiring interaction.
  • Open ended: A free-flowing, non-directed, detailed response to a question.
  • Physiological assessments: Measurements in which a participant's physical characteristics are evaluated such as blood pressure, heart rate, or physical strength.
  • Placebo: An inactive drug that may be used in research
  • Precise: In research, precise refers to a method that measures the same thing every time.
  • Principal Investigator (PI): The lead researcher responsible for all aspects of a research study.
  • Protocol: The research plan developed by the researcher that should be followed when carrying out the study.
  • Random assignment: "Assignment of subjects to different treatments, interventions, or conditions according to chance rather than systematically (e.g., as dictated by the standard or usual response to their condition, history, or prognosis, or according to demographic characteristics). Random assignment of subjects to conditions is an essential element of experimental research because it makes more likely the probability that differences observed between subject groups are the result of the experimental intervention." (Penslar and Porter, 2001).
  • Random selection: A form of sampling where a representative group of research participants is selected from a larger group by chance.
  • Randomly: "Of or relating to an event in which all outcomes are equally likely." (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.)
  • Raw data: Information collected from individuals in a research study that is in its original form; this might include audiotapes of interviews, completed survey sheets or measurements (like blood samples?).
  • Reliable: A term used in research to describe the consistency or precision of the information provided by a participant or of the measure used to document study information.
  • Sample: A selection of a smaller group of individuals who have been chosen to participate in a research study because they represent the characteristics of the larger group.
  • Survey: A set of questions for research participants to answer.
  • Systematic: A systematic investigation means that a careful plan is followed to gather information. The Office of Human Research Protections offers this explanation of the systematic process of research: "Systematic observations are obtained under clearly specified, and, where possible, controlled conditions that can be measured and evaluated."
  • Test: A form or a physical or mental task for which a normal standard has been determined or for which there are correct answers.
  • Treatment group: The group which receives the treatment or intervention or service that is being studied/tested." Also known as "experimental group."
  • Valid: Accurate, factual, correct or true.
  • Validity: The accuracy or correctness of a study measure used in research.
  • Variance: The difference or the variation that occurs naturally in the world or change that is created as a result of a manipulation during an experiment.


Source URL: https://ori.hhs.gov/basic-research-concepts-additional-sections-0