Terms Used in Research


  • Abstract: A concise summary of a study that communicates the
    essential information about the study.
  • Assumption: A statement based on logic or reason whose correctness
    or validity is taken for granted.
  • Data: Units of information.
  • Descriptive research: Non experimental research designed to discover new meanings and to provide new knowledge when there is little known about the phenomena of interest.
  • Hypothesis: A statement of predicted relationship between two or
    more variables in a research study. An educated or calculated guess by the researcher.
  • Informed consent: Voluntary agreement by a study subject to
    participate in the research study after being fully informed about the study.
  • Phenomena: Facts or events that can be observed or scientifically
    described because they are known through senses rather than
    thoughts or intuition.
  • Reliability: Stability of a measuring item overtime. A measure of the extent to which random variation may have influenced the stability and consistency of results.
  • Validity: Ability of the test item to measure what it is expected to measure. Extent to which research findings represent reality.
  • Variable: An attribute or characteristic that can have more than one value, such as height, weight and blood pressure.
  • Dependent variable: The variable that changes as the independent variable is manipulated by the researcher.
  • Independent variable: The variable that is purposely manipulated or changed by the researcher.
  • Confounding variable: Variable outside the purpose of the study that could influence the study’s results.
  • Qualitative data: Data characterized by words rather than numbers
  • Quantitative data: Data characterised by numbers
  • Population: A total group of individual people or things meeting the designed criteria of interest to the researcher.
  • Sample: A smaller part of the population selected to represent the
    whole population.

More Terminologies in simple detail


A clear, concise summary that communicates the essential information about the study. In research journals, it is usually located at the beginning of an article. It serves two main purposes:

  1.  To help potential readers determine the relevance of your paper for their own research.
  2.  To communicate your key findings to those who don’t have time to read the whole paper.
research data

Units of information or any statistics, facts, figures, general material, evidence, or knowledge collected during the course of the study. Also referred to as the processed information. The data is classified into majorly four categories/scales:

  1. • Nominal data.
  2. • Ordinal data.
  3. • Discrete data.
  4. • Continuous data.
Classifications/Scales of Data – Further Classified
Classifications/scales of data-further classified research

Attributes or characteristics that can have more than one value, such as height or weight. Variables are qualities or quantities, properties or characteristics of people, things, or situations that change or vary.


Variables that are purposely manipulated or changed by the researcher. It is also called as “MANIPULATIVE VARIABLE.” For example, if we have a topic stated as “factors influencing the uptake of family planning services,” then “factors influencing” are our independent variables.

Dependent Variable

The variable that is influenced by the independent variable. It is also called the outcome variable. The dependent variable is the variable the researcher is interested in understanding, explaining, or predicting. For example, “uptake of family planning services” is the dependent variable.


Refers to the way in which the researcher defines the variables under investigation. Operational definitions are stated in such a way by the investigator specifying how the study variables will be measured in the actual research situation.


A statement of the predicted relationship between two or more variables in a research study; an educated or calculated guess by the researcher.


Restrictions in a study that may decrease the credibility and generalizability of the research findings. The limitations of a study are its flaws or shortcomings, which could be the result of unavailability of resources, small sample size, unsound methodology, etc. Listing the limitations of your study reflects honesty and transparency and shows that you have a complete understanding of the topic.


The entire set of individuals or objects having some common characteristics selected for a research study is referred to as the population.


The entire population in which the researchers are interested and to which they would like to generalize the research findings.


The group of people or objects that is available to the researcher for a particular study.


A part or subset of the population selected to participate in the research study.


A sample whose characteristics are highly similar to that of the population from which it is drawn.


The act, process, or technique of selecting a representative part of a population for the purpose of determining parameters or characteristics of the whole population. The process of selecting a sample from the target population to represent the entire population.


The selection of subjects or sampling units from a population using a random procedure. Examples include Simple Random Sampling and Stratified Random Sampling.


The selection of subjects or sampling units from a population using a non-random procedure. Examples include Convenient Sampling and Purposive Sampling.


The degree of consistency or accuracy with which an instrument measures the attributes it is designed to measure.


The degree to which an instrument achieves what it is intended to measure.


Pretesting is the stage in research when tools/data collection instruments like the questionnaires are tested on members of the target population. Pre-testing is the administration of the data collection instrument with a small set of respondents from the population for the full-scale research. If problems occur in the pre-test, it is likely that similar problems will arise in full-scale administration.

Purpose of Pretesting
  • The purpose of pre-testing is to identify problems with the data collection instrument and find possible solutions.
  • Pretesting ensures the data collections tools are valid hence generation of reliable results
  • Pre-testing also helps assess whether respondents are able and willing to provide the needed information
  • Pre-testing allows the responsible assessor to test solutions to problems with the questionnaire.
Principles of Pretesting
  • Pre-testing should be conducted in circumstances that are as similar as possible to actual data collection
  • Pre-testing should be conducted on population members as similar as possible to those that will be sampled.
  • Careful notes should be taken on the problems encountered and possible solutions should be identified.

A pilot study is a smaller version of a proposed study conducted to refine the methodology. It is developed much like the proposed study, using similar subjects, the same settings, the same treatment, the same data collection, and analysis techniques. A study carried out at the end of the planning phase of research to explore and test the research elements to make relevant modifications in research tools and methodology. It is aimed at testing the data instruments to ascertain its feasibility in the actual conduct of the research.


Method of organizing, sorting, and scrutinizing data in such a way that research questions can be answered or meaningful inferences can be drawn. A well-done research analysis is preceded by the presentation and interpretation of the research findings.


The process of learning the key facts about a clinical trial before deciding whether or not to participate. It is also a continuing process throughout the study to provide information for participants. To help someone decide whether or not to participate, the doctors, nurses, or research participants involved in the trial explain the details of the study.


In epidemiology, a group of individuals with some characteristics in common. Cohorts can be prospective or retrospective. Prospective cohort means you study participants from the present to the future. Retrospective cohort means you study participants based on their past.


When a point of view prevents impartial judgment on issues relating to the subject of that point of view. In clinical studies, bias is controlled by blinding and randomization.


A randomized trial is “Blind” if the participant is not told which arm of the trial he is on. A clinical trial is “Blind” if participants are unaware of whether they are in the experimental or control arm of the study; also called masked.


Any undesired actions or effects of a drug or treatment. Negative or adverse effects may include headache, nausea, hair loss, skin irritation, or other physical problems. Experimental drugs must be evaluated for both immediate and long-term side effects.

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