You are on page 1of 9

This is a compilation of different terms and their meanings which may be helpful in

doing a research course. Some were obtained by reading books by T. Kuhn, E.

Babbie, W. Neuman and Nachmias on research methods. Others were defined from
internet sources and class notes.

Epistemology – The study of how we know what we know or the philosophy of


Paradigms – A broad point of view on the way things are or the theory dominant in any
historical period

Logical positivism – A philosophy that believes in using experiments to prove things or

only believe in things that can be observed and measured to prove that it is true.

Verstehen - A philosophy that is exploratory or in search of meaning. It is the emphatic

understanding of human behaviour.

Epistemological ‘modes’ - The different ways of knowing what you know. It can be
through scientific, tradition, religion, logics and convention etc.

Errors in ‘ordinary’ human inquiry – these are mistakes that are sometimes made from
inaccurate observation. For example, if the question was asked what colour shirt our
lecturer was wearing the first day of class, we may have to guess because most of our
daily observations were causal and semiconscious. However, if we deliberately made an
effort to observe from the first day of the class, would help reduce error. It can also be
made from overgeneralization. For example, out of two thousand persons at a gathering,
we interview only five and assumed that all the others were there for the same reason. It
can also result from selective observation, illogical reason and premature inquiry.

‘Clocks and clouds’ analogy – In the debate between the two dominant paradigms
-logical positivism and verstehen, Almond likened clocks to logical positivism and clouds
to verstehen and shows that while the hard sciences can easily adhere to the scientific
method, just as clocks—or time—can be shown in a structured manner, social science
isn’t the same type of animal. The “cloud-like” nature of social phenomena is ever
changing, reshaping itself into different outlines with growing and shrinking depths and

Normal science (T.Kuhn) – Routine verification of dominant paradigms.

Revolutionary science (Kuhn) – An abrupt development of a rival paradigm that is

accepted only gradually by the scientific community.

Rival paradigm (Kuhn) - competing or alternative view to long-held, obvious-seeming


Dominant paradigm (Kuhn) - A single truth or world view that dominates a field of
science at any one time e.g. Marxism a dominant theory at one point

Anomalies (Kuhn) – things that can not be explained well that do not fit the pattern.
Deduction / deductive reasoning – the logical model in which specific expectations of
hypotheses are developed on the basis of general principles. For example, starting from
the general principle that all deans are meanies, you might anticipate that this one won’t
let you change courses. This anticipation would be the result of deduction

Induction /inductive reasoning /‘grounded’ theory – the logical model in which

general principles are developed from specific observations. Grounded theory is an
inductive approach to the study of social life that attempts to generate a theory from the
constant comparing of unfolding observations. This is different from hypothesis testing,
in which theory is used to generate hypotheses to be tested through observations

Wallace’s ‘wheel of science’ analogy – this is a cycle that starts with a theory, then a
hypothesis, then observation, then empirical generalization; this logical model is
deduction. At the other extreme, the reverse takes place in which the starting point is from
empirical generalization. This model is Induction

Quantitative analysis – the numerical representation and manipulation of observations

for the purpose of describing and explaining the phenomena that those observations

Qualitative analysis – the non-numerical examination and interpretation of observations,

for the purpose of discovering underlying meaning and patterns of relationships

Theory – a systematic explanation for the observations that relate to a particular aspect of
life or a statement that organizes predicts and explains a general class of phenomena

Concept – an abstraction representing an object, a property of an object, or a certain

phenomenon that scientists used to describe the empirical world

Conceptual or ‘nominal’ definition (conceptualization) – a definition that describes a

concept by using primitive and derived terms

Operational definition (operationalization) – a set of procedures that bridges the

conceptual-theoretical and empirical-observational levels by describing the activities
needed to empirically observe a phenomenon empirically

Normative statement or proposition – deals with values and addresses what should be
rather than what is, for example a statement saying, Jamaica should be a democratic
society, is an expression of a value judgment

Empirical statement or proposition – means you can validate something as true by

giving evidence that it is true. For example a statement saying, Jamaica is a democratic
society, can be proven by using evidence. This statement is based upon facts

Variable – something that varies, it has logical groupings of values/attributes, for

example, the variable gender is made up of the attributes male and female

Value / attribute – characteristics or qualities that describe an object

Dependent variable - phenomenon thought to be caused, depend on, or to be a function

of another (independent variable). It is the variable the researcher wishes to explain
Independent variable - measures of the phenomena that are thought to influence, affect,
or cause some other phenomenon

Control variable – something you control, or that is held constant in an attempt to

explain or clarify the relationship between two other variables (dependent and
independent). It is used to test whether the observed relations between the two variables
are spurious

Continuous variable – a variable whose attributes form a steady progression, such as age
or income. Thus, the ages of a group of people might include 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, and so
forth and could even be broken down into fractions of years

Discrete variable - a variable whose attributes are separate from one another, or
discontinuous as in the case of gender (male or female)

Hypothesis - A theory made practical that can be tested or a specific statement of

prediction. It describes in concrete (rather than theoretical) terms what you expect will
happen in your study.

Logic of hypothesis testing (5 steps) –

 first of all formulate hypothesis and stating what it is.
 Secondly, collect data relevant to the hypothesis
 thirdly, evaluate hypothesis in light of the data
 fourthly, accept or reject hypothesis
 finally, revise theory in light of new information.

Relationship – joint occurrence or covariation between two or more variables

Direction – tells whether the relationship is positive or negative

Magnitude / strength – the extent to which variables covary positively or negatively

Positive relationship - an association whereby as the value of one variable increases, the
value of the other also increases or when one is present, the other is also present

Negative relationship – an association whereby as the value of one variable increases,

the value of the other decreases or when one is present, the other is absent

Perfect relationship – this is when two variables are completely correlated and the value
equals one (1)

Zero relationship – there is no correlation between variables

Spurious relationship – an apparent relation between the independent and dependent

variable that is found to be false because it can be explained by variables other than those
stated in the hypothesis

Measurement – the assignment of numbers or other symbols to empirical properties

according to rules
Levels of measurement – the degree to which typical numbers describe characteristics of
the measured variable; the higher the level of measurement, the greater the number of
applicable statistical methods

Nominal – the level of measurement at which the properties of objects in one category
are identical and mutually exclusive and exhaustive for all its cases; it is the lowest level
of measurement and values cannot be ranked ordered (for example, Gender – male of

Ordinal - the level of measurement in which all sets of observations generate a complete
ranking of objects (for example, from ‘the most’ to ‘the least’), although the distances
cannot be precisely measured. There is no incremental change between the values

Interval - the level of measurement at which the distances between observations are
exact; can be precisely measured in constant units and is continuous in nature. There is no
true/real or absolute zero (for example, temperature)

Ratio (-level) - the level of measurement that has a unique zero point. The phenomenon
does not exist, for example, you cannot say you speed at ‘0’ mph from work to home, this
is not possible

Reliable / reliability – the consistency of a measuring instrument, that is, the extent to
which a measuring instrument contains variable error

Valid / validity – the degree to which a measuring instrument measures what it is

supposed to measure

Isomorphism – similarity or identical in structure

Unidimensional (ity) – principle that implies that the items comprising a scale reflect a
single dimension and belong on a continuum that reflects one and only one theoretical

Social desirability bias – a bias in a survey research in which respondents give a

‘normative’ response or a socially accepted answer rather than the honest answer

Response set bias – a tendency to agree or disagree with every question in a series rather
than carefully thinking through one’s answer to each. The participant no longer giving a
clear response, they are only just following a pattern

Triangulation – use of more than one form of data collection to test the same hypothesis
within a unified research plan

Multiple indicators – using multiple procedures to provide empirical evidence of the

levels of a variable

Index – a composite measure of two or more indicators or items and they are not identical

Scale – is adding up a set of things with identical structure. It is a type of composite

measure composed of several items that have a logical or empirical structure among them.
It can also be seen as a class of quantitative data measures often used in survey research
that captures the intensity, direction, level, or potency of a variable construct along a
continuum. Most are at the ordinal level of measurement. Examples of scale are Guttman
and Likert
Forced choice – this is when a question is asked and the respondent is given two options
“yes” or “no” to choose one

Likert scale – a scale often used in survey research in which people express attitudes or
other responses in terms of ordinal-level categories (for example, agree, disagree) that are
ranked along a continuum. It is a summated rating scale designed to assist in excluding
questionable items

Semantic differential – a questionnaire format in which the respondent is asked to rate

something in terms of two opposite adjectives (for example, rate textbooks as boring or
exiting) using qualifiers such as ‘very’, ‘somewhat’, ‘neither’, to bridge the distance
between the two opposites.

Unit of analysis – the who or what being studied for example, ‘individual people’. It is
also the most elementary part of the phenomenon to be studied; its character influences
subsequent research design, data collection, and data analysis decisions

Ecological fallacy – the inappropriate generalization from more complex to simpler unit
of analysis

Reductionism – this is a fault of some researcher; a strict limitation (reduction) of the

kinds of concepts to be considered relevant to the phenomenon under study

Cross-sectional study – a study based on observations representing a single point in time

Longitudinal study – a study design involving the collection of data at different points in

Determinism – an approach to human agency and causality that assumes human actions
are largely caused by forces external to individuals that can be identified

Idiographic explanation – an approach to explanation in which we seek to exhaust the

idiosyncratic causes of a particular condition or event

Nomothetic explanation – an approach to explanation in which we seek to identify a few

causal factors that generally impact a class of conditions or events

‘Criteria for causality’ – the variables must be correlated (some actual relationship exist
between the two variables), the cause take place before the effect and the variables are
nonspurious (effect cannot be explained interms of some third variable)

Necessary cause – represents a condition that must be present for the effect to follow (for
example, it is necessary to take college courses in order to get a degree)

Sufficient cause - represents a condition that, if it is present, guarantees the effect in

question. This is not to say that a sufficient cause is the only possible cause of a particular
effect (for example, skipping an exam would be sufficient cause for failing a course,
though you could fail it other ways as well). Thus a cause can be sufficient but not

Tautology – a statement that is true by virtue of its logical form alone

Population / universe – the entire set of relevant units of analysis

Sample – this is a subset or a representation of a population

Representativeness – that quality of a sample of having the same distribution of

characteristics as the population from which it was selected. By implication, descriptions
and explanations derived from an analysis of the sample may be assumed to represent
similar ones in the population. Representativeness is enhanced by probability sampling
and provides for generalizability and the use of inferential statistics

Random selection - a sampling method in which each element has an equal chance of
selection independent of any other event in the selection process

Random sample – a sample in which the reseacher uses random number table or similar
mathematical process so that each sampling element in the population will have an equal
probability of being selected

Probability sampling - sample units selected from the sampling frame according to some
probabilistic scheme

Nonprobability sampling – a sampling method in which there is no way of specifying

the probability of each unit’s inclusion in the sample

Sampling frame - the list of the sampling units that is used in the selection of the sample

Stratified sample – this is when you group sampling frame elements according to
categories of one characteristic and sample from each group separately

‘Significance’ test(s) – this indicates the probability that a relationship could have
occurred because of chance alone. It is also a class of statistical computations that
indicate the likelihood that the relationship observed between variables in a sample can be
attributed to sampling error only

Level of significance – the probability of rejecting a true null hypothesis; that is, the
possibility of making a type I error

Null hypothesis – a statement of no relationship between variables; the null hypothesis is

rejected when an observed statistic appears unlikely under the null hypothesis

Chi square – used as a measure of association in descriptive statistics or in inferential

statistics. As a measure of association, chi square can be used for nominal and ordinal
data. It has an upper limit of infinity and a lower limit of zero, meaning no association

Data reduction – this is using scientific analysis to reduce data from unmanageable
details to manageable summaries
Statistic vs parameter – the summary description of a variable in a sample, used to
estimate a population parameter. Parameter is the summary description of a given
variable in a population

Descriptive statistics – statistical procedures used for describing and analyzing data that
enable the researcher to summarize and organize data in an effective and meaningful way

Inferential statistics – allows the researcher to make decisions or inferences about

characteristics of a population based on observations from a sample taken from the

Univariate statistics - statistical measures that deal with one variable only

Bivariate statistics – statistical measures that involve two variables only

Multivariate statistics - statistical measures that deal with more than two variables

Frequency distribution – the number of observations of each value of a variable

Percentage – this is a way of expressing a number as a fraction of 100 (per cent meaning
"per hundred"). It is often denoted using the percent sign, "%", For example, 65% (read as
"sixty percent") is equal to 65/100, or 0.65

Central tendency – statistical measures that reflect a typical or an average characteristic

of a frequency distribution

Mode - a measure of central tendency defined as the most frequently occurring

observation category in the data

Median – a measure of central tendency defined as the point above and below which 50
percent of the observations fall

Mean – an average computed by summing the values of several observations and

dividing by the number of observations

Dispersion - statistical measures that reflect the degree of spread or variation in a


Range – measures the distance between the highest and the lowest values of a distribution

Variance - a measure of quantitative variation reflecting the average dispersion in the

distribution; the square of the standard deviation

Standard deviation – a commonly used measure of variability whose size indicates the
dispersion of a distribution

Subgroup comparison – this is the dividing of data into subgroup and comparing their

Contingency table – a format for presenting the relationships among variables as

percentage distributions or a table of cross tabulation of two or more variables showing
bivariate quantitative data for variables in the form of percentages across rows or down
columns for the categories of one variable

Measures of ‘association’ - a single number that expresses the strength, and often the
direction, of a relationship. It condenses information about a bivariate relationship into a
single number

Proportionate reduction of error – a method used to measure the magnitude of the

relations between two variables wherein one variable is used to predict the values of

Phi - this is a chi-square based measure of association that involves dividing the chi-
square statistic by the sample size and taking the square root of the result.

Cramer’s V - this is a measure of association based on chi-square

Lambda - a measure of association indicating the magnitude and direction of the

relationship between nominal variables. it reflects the proportional reduction in error
when values of the independent variable are used to predict values of the dependent
variable. A value of 1 means that the independent variable perfectly predicts the
dependent variable. A value of 0 means that the independent variable is no help in
predicting the dependent variable

Gamma – A symmetric measure of association indicating the magnitude and direction of

the relationship between ordinal variables that ranges between negative 1 and 1. Values
close to an absolute value of 1 indicate a strong relationship between the two variables.
Values close to zero indicate little or no relationship.

Spearman’s rho – a statistics used to calculate the strength of the relationship between
two ordinal variables. It is the non-parametric alternative to Pearson Product Moment

Covariation – a measure of how two variables both vary relative to one another

Pearson’s r – the Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient, a statistic that

specifies the magnitude and direction of relation between two interval-level variables, is
the most commonly used statistic in correlational analysis

R-square (coefficient of determination) – this measures the percentage of the variance


Linear regression analysis – a form of statistical analysis that seeks the equation for the
straight line that best describes the relationship between two ratio variables

Scattergram / Scatterplot – is a graph on which the researcher plots each case or

observation, where each axis represents the value of one variable. A diagram to display
the statistical relationship between two variables based on plotting each case’s values for
both of the variables

Regression line – a line based on the least squares criterion that is the best fit to the
points in a scatterplot
Least squares criterion – this is a formula that looks at the distance by which data is off
Correlation matrix – this is a matrix of correlation or a method of presentation showing
the intercorrelations among several variables

‘Multiple’ regression – a statistical technique that allows us to assess the relationship

between an interval variable and two or more interval, ordinal, or nominal variables. It
permits one to predict the value of a dependent variable from the composite effects of any
number of independent variables

Standardized regression coefficient (beta weight) – this permits one to determine

which independent variables have the greatest impact

Regression assumptions – these are assumptions made about variables for analysis so
that the results can be trustworthy and also to avoid a Type I or Type II error, or over- or
under-estimation of significance or effect size

ANOVA – or Analysis of Variance is a method of analysis in which cases under study are
combined into groups representing an independent variable, and the extent to which the
groups differ from one another is analyzed in terms of some dependent variable. Then the
extent to which the groups differ is compared with the standard of random distribution.
There are two common forms: one-way analysis of variance and two-way analysis of

Eta / eta squared - A measure of association that ranges from 0 to 1, with 0 indicating no
association between the row and column variables and values close to 1 indicating a high
degree of association. Eta is appropriate for a dependent variable measured on an interval
scale (e.g., income) and an independent variable with a limited number of categories (e.g.,
gender). Two eta values are computed: one treats the row variable as the interval variable;
the other treats the column variable as the interval variable.

Reliability analysis - allows you to study the properties of measurement scales and the
items that make them up. The Reliability Analysis procedure calculates a number of
commonly used measures of scale reliability and also provides information about the
relationships between individual items in the scale. Intra-class correlation coefficients can
be used to compute inter-rater reliability estimates.

Inter-item correlation - is a type of reliability analysis that gives the average or mean of
all the correlations

Alpha - this is a reliability model of internal consistency, based on the average inter-item

Factor analysis - a statistical technique for classifying a large number of interrelated

variables into a limited number of dimensions or factors

Time-series analysis – an analysis of changes in a variable (for example, crime rates)

over time