Module 3 Key Terms and Definitions

    administrative data: information routinely recorded in programs, agencies, and institutions as part of normal operations, not with a research intent.

alphanumeric variables: data in words or numbers that have no mathematical meaning (for example, telephone numbers, addresses, names or descriptions).

categorical variables: variables with categories of a non-numeric type, characterized by their names/labels rather than mathematical numbers (for example, race, religion, or national origin categories)

cohort: a group of individuals with a shared, common history or experience (for example a birth cohort like “baby boomers,” “Gen X,” “Gen Y,” or “Gen Z.”

community-based participatory research (CBPR): a collaborative inquiry process involving an egalitarian, mutual learning partnership between community partners and researchers, both as experts in their own ways, sharing that expertise toward a common research-related goal.

concept map: the diagram resulting from a systematic research process where concepts, ideas, or constructs are identified and organized in terms of their mutual relationships.

content/artifact analysis: research analysis of information, records, recordings, or objects created in the normal course of events/living, outside of a research intent.

continuous variables: numeric variables on a continuum of values where possible values are equally distant (see interval variables).

convenience sampling: a type of non-probability sampling, subject to sampling bias, that draws a group of participants (sample) in a systematic, non-random manner based on ease of access to recruit them (for example, college students, clinic populations, club members).

correlational researchresearch designed to evaluate the existence and nature of relationships between variables (whether they are statistically correlated, and if so, the strength and direction of the correlation).

cross-sectional research: research designs involving only one data collection time per individual element or unit being measured, providing a single-time “snapshot” of data.

cultural competence in measurement: using measures and measurement procedures that are appropriate for the group being measured, as free from bias as possible; “cultural” is broadly defined to include gender, race, ethnicity, language, religion, national origin, ability/disability, and other factors relevant to a study population.

demographic variables: variables used to describe specific characteristics of a population, group, or sample (for example, age, gender, race, ethnicity, or income level)

dependent variable: the variable in a study design presumed or hypothesized to vary as a function of variation in the independent variable; its value is presumed to depend on the independent variable values; the “outcome” or “output” variable in a study design (i.e., usually denoted as the “y” variable, where “x” denotes the independent variable).

descriptive researchresearch with the purpose of creating a profile or typology (description) of a population, phenomenon, or process.

dichotomous variables: a special type of categorical variable with only two possible categories or values (for example, yes/no, meets/does not meet clinical criteria, completed/did not complete treatment).

double-barreled question: a single question that asks for information representing two different questions, may not be accurately answered in a single response; often uses the word “and” to connect the two different questions being asked.

ecological momentary assessment (EMA): a form of real-time data collection, often using technology to record events as they are happening (rather than retrospective accounts)

ethnographic research (ethnography): one of the major qualitative research traditions with the aim of understanding a population, social work problem, social phenomenon, or experience from the collective perspective of a group (rather than discrete individual perspectives).

experimental research: research designed to answer explanatory questions, testing hypotheses or theory about a phenomenon or process.

external validity: the degree to which quantitative research results based on a study sample can accurately be generalized to the larger population or other settings.

focus group: a research tradition involving interview data collected in a group setting (rather than from individual participants).

geographic information systems (GIS): a form of data representing geospatial relationships between places where events, experiences, or behaviors occur and the nature of those events, experiences, or behaviors (for example, locations of state prisons and prisoner visitation patterns).

generalizabilitythe extent to which findings based on sample data can be expected to reflect what is true of the population from which the sample was drawn (see external validity).

grounded theory research: one of the major qualitative research traditions, aimed at developing theoretical explanations about a phenomenon or process from data provided by intentionally/purposively selected individuals.

heterogeneity: differences, diversity, variability in a group or population.

homophily: observation that people tend to associate with others similar to themselves.

independent variable: the variable in a study design presumed or hypothesized to vary on its own, but that determines variation observed in the dependent (outcome or output) variable; the “input” variable in a study design (i.e., usually denoted as the “x” variable, where “y” denotes the dependent variable).

internal validity: the degree of confidence that can be applied to the results of an experimental, explanatory study; study integrity; ability to rule out alternative explanations for the experimental results.

inter-observer reliability: different observers, raters, or coders getting the same result when evaluating the same qualitative, open-ended question, or observational data; also called inter-rater or inter-coder reliability.

interval variable: continuous variable (on a continuum) where the distance between possible values (intervals) are equivalent (for example, age where the 1-point interval between 40 and 41 is the same as the 1-point interval between 49 and 50, 1 year).

interview protocols: data are systematically collected by investigators interact with participants to provide information in a “live” dialogue (may be in-person, by telephone, or other interactive media).

key informants: persons identified as close and knowledgeable about someone for whom data are being recorded (for example, parents of young children, spouse or caregiver to a person with special care needs)

latent variable: a variable not directly observed but mathematically or statistically inferred from other variables that are directly measured.

longitudinal research: study design where data are collected repeatedly from the same individuals/elements/units over time.

measurement reliability: indicates the degree of accuracy or precision in measuring the construct or variable of interest.

measurement validity: the extent to which a measurement tool or instrument adequately measures the concept, construct, or variable of interest, comprised of several types of validity (construct, concurrent, predictive, and others).

mixed-methods researcha study approach that integrates aims, questions, and methods in both qualitative and quantitative traditions.

narrative inquiry: one of the major qualitative traditions, eliciting and analyzing the “stories” and their contexts as experienced by one or a few individuals.

naturalistic observation: a form of data collection concerning individuals’ behavior in their naturally occurring environments; the observer is a non-participant (objective observer).

nominal variables: another name for categorical variables (categories have names, are not numeric)

non-probability sampling: forms of participant selection that are not random; participants have unequal chances of being selected from the population.

ordinal variables: categories of a variable have numeric relationships, can be sequenced in numeric order but are not continuous interval variables (for example, ratings of frequency from never to always)

participant attrition: the opposite of participant retention, refers to participants dropping out of a (longitudinal) study before completion

participant recruitment: process of initially engaging potential participants in a research study

participant retention: the opposite of attrition, refers to maintaining participation for the duration of a (longitudinal) study

participatory action research (PAR): investigators are active both as researchers and change agents in the group/process under study.

phenomenological research (phenomenology): one of the major qualitative traditions, involving the constructing of shared, common meaning about an event, experience, or phenomenon out of the experiences and perceptions of a group of study participants.

photovoice:  a data collection approach involving a combination of participants recording images (photographing) aspects of their experiences and environments along with qualitative data about their explanations of those images/photographs.

primary data: data collected with the intention of meeting aims of the specific research study for which the data are collected.

probability sampling: selecting research participants using methods that ensure every member of the original population has an equal chance (probability) of being selected; (see random selection).

proxy variables: variables that represent or stand for something not directly measured (for example, birth order representing amount of parental attention experienced).

qualitative researchresearch with the aim of describing or exploring populations and phenomena as they naturally occur; approaches flow from inductive reasoning process; multiple qualitative traditions exist.

quantitative research: research with descriptive, exploratory, or explanatory aims where the data collected are in quantifiable terms; approaches flow from deductive reasoning process; usually involves some form of statistical analysis or reporting; built from a

random assignment: refers to dividing the randomly selected sample into assigned experimental groups

random selection: refers to strategies used to recruit participants into a quantitative study with the aim of maximizing external validity (the extent to which results from the sample can be generalized to the larger population)

sample: a group drawn from a population for the purposes of observation or measurement.

scale variable: another name for an interval variable.

screening and assessment tools: instruments or tools used in professional practice to evaluate clients, but which may also be used in research to collect data.

secondary data: research using data originally collected for a different research purpose (a secondary use of the data).

snowball sampling: building a study sample from having enrolled participants identify others who may be recruited as participants, too.

social desirability: a person’s tendency to provide answers that seem to be more acceptable/correct than would be their true answers; a potential type of bias in data.

social networks: the formal and informal connections that exist between individual units in complex social systems.

survey methodology: research approach involving probability sampling and data collection by use of survey tools (whether by in-person interview, telephone, paper-and-pencil, on-line, or otherwise collected).

triangulation: strategy of applying multiple methods to study a single phenomenon, generating a unified understanding by combining the results.

unit of analysis: data may be collected from individuals, but the unit of analysis might be the individuals themselves, or higher order units to which they belongdyads, couples, families, classrooms, neighborhoods, and others.

variable: elements, entities, or factors that can change (vary) in a research study.


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