Module 2 Key Terms and Definitions

   abstracting and indexing databases: provide article abstracts and information about accessing full articles of interest; may not be in the public domain; access depends on the library use.

article abstract: a summary of an article; helps to determine if the full article will be of interest/relevant.

background question: answerable with facts, direct a straightforward search for evidence; typically get at the epidemiology or etiology of a social work problem or social phenomenon (as compared to foreground question).

basic research: fundamental or foundational research, usually to build or test theory or improve prediction; tends to impose rigid control over variables (compared to applied research).

biopsychosocial: a perspective that integrates biological, psychological, and social system factors and forces in explaining a phenomenon; also, may consider the interactions among these factors and forces.

correlational research question: seeking descriptions about relationships that might exist between variables; questions of association.

descriptive research question: directs research around developing descriptions about populations, problems, processes, or phenomena.

empirical literature: literature providing information based on systematic observation and applying systematic methodology, objectively developed, characterized by transparency, and reproducible (meeting definition of research).

epidemiology: science of understanding the distribution of problems or phenomena in the population; also, may include understanding relationships between problems/phenomena, and the root causes; common approach used in public health.

etiology: science testing theories and hypotheses about the origins and natural course of a problem or phenomenon

explanatory research question: directs research around testing theories and hypotheses about causality and causal relationships between variables; usually leads to experimental study approaches.

exploratory research question: directs research around developing a basic, beginning understanding of a newly recognized phenomenon of interest where not much is yet known or understood, to the point where knowing what questions about theory and causes are premature.

foreground question: answers allow comparison of options, usually practice decisions; often complex (as compared to background questions).

impact factor: a statistic used to evaluate how much articles published in a particular journal have been cited by others, as a gauge of the journal’s impact on the field.

implementation science: the study of how interventions are disseminated and adopted into practice.

interdisciplinary: where different disciplines work together, creating an integrated, unified whole.

intervention research: science of the impact of specific interventions on outcomes of interest; in addition to what outcomes are observed, may also include studies of mechanisms by which interventions have their impact on outcomes (mechanisms of change).

mechanisms of change: the specific factors, variables, and processes by which changes in outcome are produced; how an intervention has its effects.

multidisciplinary: where different disciplines contribute separate parts, individually, that maintain their distinct, unique characteristics in the whole.

open-access journals: electronic publications available to anyone without a subscription, designed to make information as widely accessible to public, global audiences as possible; note cautions regarding discerning between legitimate and predatory/junk open-access resources.

peer review process: publication (and grant award) process by which submissions are evaluated for adequacy and accuracy by other scholars familiar with the topic/field/area.

predatory or junk journals: publications lacking integrity of legitimate journals, proliferating in the open environment of the internet/web access.

research abstracts: published summaries of a research report; may or may not be accompanied by a full manuscript.

research hypothesis: a clear, testable statement predicting an outcome or results, and that will either be rejected or not, depending on the evidence; the prediction or hypothesis is based on theory and/or other evidence.

social indicators: statistics that describe the social, economic, and psychological factors that have an impact on the well-being of a community or other population group.

theory: explanatory belief(s), idea(s), or principles; may be simple or from complex system of principles.

think tank: formal organizations that provide ideas on specific problems, many of which have a political component and advocate/lobby for policy change based on their “research.”

transdisciplinary: where disciplinary differences become insignificant; the “whole” is equally relevant across disciplines.

translational science: a system whereby basic research informs intervention research, and implementation science addresses adoption of evidence-supported interventions.


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