a priori categories

Categories that we use that are determined ahead of time, based on existing literature/knowledge.


a summary of the main points of an article


whether you can actually reach people or documents needed to complete your project


The idea that researchers are responsible for conducting research that is ethical, honest, and following accepted research practices.

acquiescence bias

When a participant answers items based on a "pattern" that they perceive

action research

research that is conducted for the purpose of creating social change

Afrocentric methodologies

Research methodologies that center and affirm African cultures, knowledge, beliefs, and values. 

aggregate matching

In nonequivalent comparison group designs, the process in which researchers match the population profile of the comparison and experimental groups.


what a researcher hopes to accomplish with their study

alternate/multiple forms reliability

A type of reliability in which multiple forms of a tool yield the same results from the same participants.


the process of writing notes on an article


The identity of the person providing data cannot be connected to the data provided at any time in the research process, by anyone.


A statistical method to examine how a dependent variable changes as the value of a categorical independent variable changes


The potential for qualitative research findings to be applicable to other situations or with other people outside of the research study itself.


a statement about what you think is true backed up by evidence and critical thinking


Artifacts are a source of data for qualitative researcher that exist in some form already, without the research having to create it. They represent a very broad category that can range from print media, to clothing, to tools, to art, to live performances.

assent form

Comparable to the informed consent for BUT this is for children who are old enough to understand and make a decision about a research project.


The characteristics we assume about our data, like that it is normally distributed, that makes it suitable for certain types of statistical tests

audit trail

An audit trail is a system of documenting in qualitative research analysis that allows you to link your final results with your original raw data. Using an audit trail, an independent researcher should be able to start with your results and trace the research process backwards to the raw data. This helps to strengthen the trustworthiness of the research.


For the purposes of research, authenticity means that we do not misrepresent ourselves, our interests or our research; we are genuine in our interactions with participants and other colleagues.

availability sampling

researcher gathers data from whatever cases happen to be convenient or available

axial coding

Axial coding is phase of qualitative analysis in which the research will revisit the open codes and identify connections between codes, thereby beginning to group codes that share a relationship.


One of the three values indicated in the Belmont report. An obligation to protect people from harm by maximizing benefits and minimizing risks.


Biases are conscious or subconscious preferences that lead us to favor some things over others.


Biases are conscious or subconscious preferences that lead us to favor some things over others.

bimodal distribution

A distribution with two distinct peaks when represented on a histogram.

bivariate analysis

a group of statistical techniques that examines the relationship between two variables


A qualitative research technique where the researcher attempts to capture and track their subjective assumptions during the research process. * note, there are other definitions of bracketing, but this is the most widely used.

BRUSO model

An acronym, BRUSO for writing questions in survey research. The letters stand for: “brief,” “relevant,” “unambiguous,” “specific,” and “objective.”

case studies

Case studies are a type of qualitative research design that focus on a defined case and gathers data to provide a very rich, full understanding of that case. It usually involves gathering data from multiple different sources to get a well-rounded case description.

categorical variables

variables whose values are organized into mutually exclusive groups but whose numerical values cannot be used in mathematical operations.


the idea that one event, behavior, or belief will result in the occurrence of another, subsequent event, behavior, or belief

chi-square test for independence

a statistical test to determine whether there is a significant relationship between two categorical variables

chronbach's alpha

Statistical tool used to asses the internal consistency of an instrument. See also split-half approach.

Close-ended questions

Question type where participants are asked to choose their response from a list of existing responses.

cluster sampling

a sampling approach that begins by sampling groups (or clusters) of population elements and then selects elements from within those groups


A code is a label that we place on segment of data that seems to represent the main idea of that segment.


A document that we use to keep track of and define the codes that we have identified (or are using) in our qualitative data analysis.


Part of the qualitative data analysis process where we begin to interpret and assign meaning to the data.


When a participant faces undue or excess pressure to participate by either favorable or unfavorable means, this is known as coercion and must be avoided by researchers

cognitive biases

predictable flaws in thinking

cohort survey

A type of longitudinal design where participants are selected because of a defining characteristic that the researcher is interested in studying. The same people don’t necessarily participate from year to year, but all participants must meet whatever categorical criteria fulfill the researcher’s primary interest.

Common method bias

Common method bias refers to the amount of spurious covariance shared between independent and dependent variables that are measured at the same point in time.

community gatekeeper

Someone who has the formal or informal authority to grant permission or access to a particular community.

comparison group

the group of participants in our study who do not receive the intervention we are researching in experiments without random assignment

Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS)

These are software tools that can aid qualitative researchers in managing, organizing and manipulating/analyzing their data.


A mental image that summarizes a set of similar observations, feelings, or ideas

concurrent validity

A type of Criterion validity. Examines how well a tool provides the same scores as an already existing tool.


The different levels of the independent variable in an experimental design.

confidence interval

a range of values in which the true value is likely to be, to provide a more accurate description of their data


For research purposes, confidentiality means that only members of the research team have access potentially identifiable information that could be associated with participant data. According to confidentiality, it is the research team's responsibility to restrict access to this information by other parties, including the public.

confirmation bias

observing and analyzing information in a way that agrees with what you already think is true and excludes other alternatives

conflicts of interest

Conflicting allegiances.


a variable whose influence makes it difficult to understand the relationship between an independent and dependent variable


Consistency is the idea that we use a systematic (and potentially repeatable) process when conducting our research.

constant comparison

Constant comparison reflects the motion that takes place in some qualitative analysis approaches whereby the researcher moves back and forth between the data and the emerging categories and evolving understanding they have in their results. They are continually checking what they believed to be the results against the raw data they are working with.


Constructivist research is a qualitative design that seeks to develop a deep understanding of the meaning that people attach to events, experiences, or phenomena.


Conditions that are not directly observable and represent states of being, experiences, and ideas.


Content is the substance of the artifact (e.g. the words, picture, scene). It is what can actually be observed.

content analysis

An approach to data analysis that seeks to identify patterns, trends, or ideas across qualitative data through processes of coding and categorization.

content validity

The extent to which a measure “covers” the construct of interest, i.e., it's comprehensiveness to measure the construct.


Context is the circumstances surrounding an artifact, event, or experience.


Research findings are applicable to the group of people who contributed to the knowledge building and the situation in which it took place.

contingency table

a visual representation of across-tabulation of categorical variables to demonstrate all the possible occurrences of categories

continuing education units

required courses clinical practitioners must take in order to remain current with licensure

continuous variables

variables whose values are mutually exclusive and can be used in mathematical operations


In research design and statistics, a series of methods that allow researchers to minimize the effect of an extraneous variable on the dependent variable in their project.

control group

the group of participants in our study who do not receive the intervention we are researching in experiments with random assignment

control variable

a confounding variable whose effects are accounted for mathematically in quantitative analysis to isolate the relationship between an independent and dependent variable

convenience or availability

A convenience sample is formed by collecting data from those people or other relevant elements to which we have the most convenient access. Essentially, we take who we can get.


a relationship between two variables in which their values change together.

correlation coefficient

a statistically derived value between -1 and 1 that tells us the magnitude and direction of the relationship between two variables


when the values of two variables change at the same time


In qualitative data, coverage refers to the amount of data that can be categorized or sorted using the code structure that we are using (or have developed) in our study. With qualitative research, our aim is to have good coverage with our code structure.

criterion validity

The extent to which people’s scores on a measure are correlated with other variables (known as criteria) that one would expect them to be correlated with.

critical information literacy

engaging with "the social, political, economic, and corporate systems that have power and influence over information production, dissemination, access, and consumption” (Gregory & Higgins, 2013, p.ix)

critical paradigm

a paradigm in social science research focused on power, inequality, and social change


Research that collects data at one point in time.

damaged-centered research

Research that portrays groups of people or communities as flawed, surrounded by problems, or incapable of producing change.

data analysis plan

An ordered outline that includes your research question, a description of the data you are going to use to answer it, and the exact analyses, step-by-step, that you plan to run to answer your research question.

data collection protocol

A plan that is developed by a researcher, prior to commencing a research project, that details how data will be collected, stored and managed during the research project.

data dictionary

This is the document where you list your variable names, what the variables actually measure or represent, what each of the values of the variable mean if the meaning isn't obvious.

data matrix

A data matrix is a tool used by researchers to track and organize data and findings during qualitative analysis.

data triangulation

Including data from multiple sources to help enhance your understanding of a topic


a searchable collection of information

debriefing statement

A statement at the end of data collection (e.g. at the end of a survey or interview) that generally thanks participants and reminds them what the research was about, what it's purpose is, resources available to them if they need them, and contact information for the researcher if they have questions or concerns.


A decision-rule provides information on how the researcher determines what code should be placed on an item, especially when codes may be similar in nature.

Decolonizing methodologies

Research methods that reclaim control over indigenous ways of knowing and being.

deconstructing data

The act of breaking piece of qualitative data apart during the analysis process to discern meaning and ultimately, the results of the study.


The type of research in which a specific expectation is deduced from a general premise and then tested

deductive analysis

An approach to data analysis in which the researchers begins their analysis using a theory to see if their data fits within this theoretical framework (tests the theory).

deductive reasoning

starts by reading existing theories, then testing hypotheses and revising or confirming the theory

dependent variable

a variable that depends on changes in the independent variable

descriptive research

research that describes or defines a particular phenomenon

descriptive statistics

A technique for summarizing and presenting data.


Participants are asked to select one of two possible choices, such as true/false, yes/no, or agree/disagree.

Dichotomous response question

Participants are asked to select one of two possible choices, such as true/false, yes/no, or agree/disagree.

diminished autonomy

Having the ability to make decisions for yourself limited

direct relationship

Occurs when two variables move together in the same direction - as one increases, so does the other, or, as one decreases, so does the other


an academic field, like social work

discrete variables

Variables with finite value choices.

Discriminant validity

The extent to which scores on a measure are not correlated with measures of variables that are conceptually distinct


“a planned process that involves consideration of target audiences and the settings in which research findings are to be received and, where appropriate, communicating and interacting with wider policy and…service audiences in ways that will facilitate research uptake in decision-making processes and practice” (Wilson, Petticrew, Calnan, & Natareth, 2010, p. 91)

dissemination plan

how you plan to share your research findings

dissemination strategy

How you plan to share your research findings


the way the scores are distributed across the levels of that variable.

document analysis

The analysis of documents (or other existing artifacts) as a source of data.


A combination of two people or objects


the units in your sampling frame, usually people or documents

emergent design

Emergent design is the idea that some decision in our research design will be dynamic and change as our understanding of the research question evolves as we go through the research process. This is (often) evident in qualitative research, but rare in quantitative research.


in mixed methods research, this refers to the order in which each method is used, either concurrently or sequentially

empirical articles

report the results of a quantitative or qualitative data analysis conducted by the author

empirical data

information about the social world gathered and analyzed through scientific observation or experimentation

empirical questions

research questions that can be answered by systematically observing the real world


assumptions about how we come to know what is real and true

equity-informed research agenda

A general approach to research that is conscientious of the dynamics of power and control created by the act of research and attempts to actively address these dynamics through the process and outcomes of research.


Often the end result of a phenomological study, this is a description of the lived experience of the phenomenon being studied.

ethical questions

unsuitable research questions which are not answerable by systematic observation of the real world but instead rely on moral or philosophical opinions


Ethnography is a qualitative research design that is used when we are attempting to learn about a culture by observing people in their natural environment.

evaluation research

research that evaluates the outcomes of a policy or program

evidence-based practice

a process composed of "four equally weighted parts: 1) current client needs and situation, (2) the best relevant research evidence, (3) client values and preferences, and (4) the clinician’s expertise" (Drisko & Grady, 2015, p. 275)

ex post facto

After the fact

exclusion criteria

characteristics that disqualify a person from being included in a sample

exempt review

Exempt review is the lowest level of review. Studies that are considered exempt expose participants to the least potential for harm and often involve little participation by human subjects.

exhaustive categories

Exhaustive categories are options for closed ended questions that allow for every possible response (no one should feel like they can't find the answer for them).

expanded field notes

Expanded field notes represents the field notes that we have taken during data collection after we have had time to sit down and add details to them that we were not able to capture immediately at the point of collection.

expedited review

Expedited review is the middle level of review. Studies considered under expedited review do not have to go before the full IRB board because they expose participants to minimal risk. However, the studies must be thoroughly reviewed by a member of the IRB committee.


an operation or procedure carried out under controlled conditions in order to discover an unknown effect or law, to test or establish a hypothesis, or to illustrate a known law.

experimental design

Refers to research that is designed specifically to answer the question of whether there is a causal relationship between two variables.

experimental group

in experimental design, the group of participants in our study who do receive the intervention we are researching

explanatory research

explains why particular phenomena work in the way that they do; answers “why” questions

exploratory research

conducted during the early stages of a project, usually when a researcher wants to test the feasibility of conducting a more extensive study or if the topic has not been studied in the past

external audit

Having an objective person, someone not connected to your study, try to start with your findings and trace them back to your raw data using your audit trail. A tool to help demonstrate rigor in qualitative research.

external validity

This is a synonymous term for generalizability - the ability to apply the findings of a study beyond the sample to a broader population.

extraneous variables

variables and characteristics that have an effect on your outcome, but aren't the primary variable whose influence you're interested in testing.

extreme (or deviant) case sampling

A purposive sampling strategy that selects a case(s) that represent extreme or underrepresented perspectives. It is a way of intentionally focusing on or representing voices that may not often be heard or given emphasis.

face validity

The extent to which a measurement method appears “on its face” to measure the construct of interest


whether you can practically and ethically complete the research project you propose

Feminist methodologies:

Research methods in this tradition seek to, "remove the power imbalance between research and subject; (are) politically motivated in that (they) seeks to change social inequality; and (they) begin with the standpoints and experiences of women".[1]

field notes

Notes that are taken by the researcher while we are in the field, gathering data.

Filter or Screening Questions

Questions that screen out/identify a certain type of respondent, usually to direct them to a certain part of the survey.

focus group

Type of interview where participants answer questions in a group.

focus group guide

A document that will outline the instructions for conducting your focus group, including the questions you will ask participants. It often concludes with a debriefing statement for the group, as well.

focus groups

A form of data gathering where researchers ask a group of participants to respond to a series of (mostly open-ended) questions.


Deliberate actions taken to impact a research project. For example deliberately falsifying data, plagiarism, not being truthful about the methodology, etc.

frequency table

A table that lays out how many cases fall into each level of a varible.

full board review

A full board review will involve multiple members of the IRB evaluating your proposal. When researchers submit a proposal under full board review, the full IRB board will meet, discuss any questions or concerns with the study, invite the researcher to answer questions and defend their proposal, and vote to approve the study or send it back for revision. Full board proposals pose greater than minimal risk to participants. They may also involve the participation of vulnerable populations, or people who need additional protection from the IRB.


the people or organizations who control access to the population you want to study


The ability to apply research findings beyond the study sample to some broader population,

generalizable findings

Findings form a research study that apply to larger group of people (beyond the sample). Producing generalizable findings requires starting with a representative sample.


(as in generalization) to make claims about a large population based on a smaller sample of people or items

gray literature

research reports released by non-commercial publishers, such as government agencies, policy organizations, and think-tanks

grounded theory

A type of research design that is often used to study a process or identify a theory about how something works.

grounded theory analysis

A form of qualitative analysis that aims to develop a theory or understanding of how some event or series of events occurs by closely examining
participant knowledge and experience of that event(s).


The quality of or the amount of difference or variation in data or research participants.


a graphical display of a distribution.


The quality of or the amount of similarity or consistency in data or research participants.

human instrument

As researchers in the social science, we ourselves are the main tool for conducting our studies.

human subject

The US Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) defines a human subject as “a living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research obtains (1) data through intervention or interaction with the individual, or (2) identifiable private information” (USDHHS, 1993, para. 1). [2]


a statement describing a researcher’s expectation regarding what she anticipates finding

hypothetico-deductive method

A cyclical process of theory development, starting with an observed phenomenon, then developing or using a theory to make a specific prediction of what should happen if that theory is correct, testing that prediction, refining the theory in light of the findings, and using that refined theory to develop new hypotheses, and so on.

idiographic causal relationship

attempts to explain or describe your phenomenon exhaustively, based on the subjective understandings of your participants

idiographic understanding

A rich, deep, detailed understanding of a unique person, small group, and/or set of circumstances.


Tthe long-term condition that occurs at the end of a defined time period after an intervention.

implementation science

The scientific study of methods to promote the systematic uptake of research findings and other evidence-based practices into routine practice, and, hence, to improve the quality and effectiveness of health services.


the impact your study will have on participants, communities, scientific knowledge, and social justice

inclusion criteria

Inclusion criteria are general requirements a person must possess to be a part of your sample.

independent variable

causes a change in the dependent variable


a composite score derived from aggregating measures of multiple concepts (called components) using a set of rules and formulas


Things that demonstrate that something, such as a concept, is present.

indirect observables

In measurement, conditions that are subtle and complex that we must use existing knowledge and intuition to define.

individual matching

In nonequivalent comparison group designs, the process by which researchers match individual cases in the experimental group to similar cases in the comparison group.


inductive reasoning draws conclusions from individual observations

inductive analysis

An approach to data analysis in which we gather our data first and then generate a theory about its meaning through our analysis.

inductive reasoning

when a researcher starts with a set of observations and then moves from particular experiences to a more general set of propositions about those experiences

information literacy

"a set of abilities requiring individuals to 'recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information" (American Library Association, 2020)

informed consent

A process through which the researcher explains the research process, procedures, risks and benefits to a potential participant, usually through a written document, which the participant than signs, as evidence of their agreement to participate.

Institutional Review Board

an administrative body established to protect the rights and welfare of human research subjects recruited to participate in research activities conducted under the auspices of the institution with which it is affiliated

inter-rater reliability

The extent to which different observers are consistent in their assessment or rating of a particular characteristic or item.

internal consistency

the consistency of people’s responses across the items on a multiple-item measure

internal validity

Ability to say that one variable "causes" something to happen to another variable. Very important to assess when thinking about studies that examine causation such as experimental or quasi-experimental designs.


a paradigm based on the idea that social context and interaction frame our realities

intersectional identities

the various aspects or dimensions that come together in forming our identity


A higher level of measurement. Denoted by having mutually exclusive categories, a hierarchy (order), and equal spacing between values. This last item means that values may be added, subtracted, divided, and multiplied.

interview guide

An interview guide is a document that outlines the flow of information during your interview, including a greeting and introduction to orient your participant to the topic, your questions and any probes, and any debriefing statement you might include. If you are part of a research team, your interview guide may also include instructions for the interviewer if certain things are brought up in the interview or as general guidance.

interview schedule

A detailed document that is used when a survey is read to a respondent that contains a list of questions and answer options that the researcher will read to respondents.


A form of data gathering where researchers ask individual participants to respond to a series of (mostly open-ended) questions.

intra-rater reliability

Type of reliability in which a rater rates something the same way on two different occasions.


a “gut feeling” about what to do based on previous experience


yer gut feelin'

inverse relationship

occurs when two variables change in opposite directions - one goes up, the other goes down and vice versa


An iterative approach means that after planning and once we begin collecting data, we begin analyzing as data as it is coming in. This early analysis of our (incomplete) data, then impacts our planning, ongoing data gathering and future analysis as it progresses.

iterative process

a nonlinear process in which the original product is revised over and over again to improve it


One of the three ethical principles in the Belmont Report. States that benefits and burdens of research should be distributed fairly.

key informant

Someone who is especially knowledgeable about a topic being studied.


the words or phrases in your search query

leading questions

When a participant's answer to a question is altered due to the way in which a question is written. In essence, the question leads the participant to answer in a specific way.

level of measurement

The level that describes the type of operations can be conducted with your data. There are four nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio.


The possible values of the variable - like a participant's age, income or gender.

levels of measurement

A research process where you create a plan, you gather your data, you analyze your data and each step is completed before you proceed to the next.

linear regression

a statistical technique that can be used to predict how an independent variable affects a dependent variable in the context of other variables.


A science that deals with the principles and criteria of validity of inference and demonstration: the science of the formal principles of reasoning.

logic model

A graphic depiction (road map) that presents the shared relationships among the resources, activities, outputs, outcomes, and impact for your program


Research in which data is collected at multiple points in time.


examining social structures and institutions


The strength of a correlation, determined by the absolute value of a correlation coefficient

matrix question

Matrix questions are used to gather data across a number of variables that all have the same response categories.

maximum variation sampling

A purposive sampling strategy where you choose cases because they represent a range of very different perspectives on a topic


Also called the average, the mean is calculated by adding all your cases and dividing the total by the number of cases.

measure of central tendency

One number that can give you an idea about the distribution of your data.


The process by which we describe and ascribe meaning to the key facts, concepts, or other phenomena that we are investigating.

measurement error

The differerence between that value that we get when we measure something and the true value

measurement instrument

Instrument or tool that operationalizes (measures) the concept that you are studying.

measurement validity

Refers to the ability of a tool to measure what it claims to measure.


The value in the middle when all our values are placed in numerical order. Also called the 50th percentile.


Member checking involves taking your results back to participants to see if we "got it right" in our analysis. While our findings bring together many different peoples' data into one set of findings, participants should still be able to recognize their input and feel like their ideas and experiences have been captured adequately.

membership-based approach

approach to recruitment where participants are members of an organization or social group with identified membership


Memoing is the act of recording your thoughts, reactions, quandaries as you are reviewing the data you are gathering.

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)

A written agreement between parties that want to participate in a collaborative project.


examining interaction between groups and within communities


a study that combines raw data from multiple quantitative studies and analyzes the pooled data using statistics


a study that combines primary data from multiple qualitative sources and analyzes the pooled data

methodological justification

an explanation of why you chose the specific design of your study; why do your chosen methods fit with the aim of your research


A description of how research is conducted.




examining the smallest levels of interaction, usually individuals


Usually unintentional. Very broad category that covers things such as not using the proper statistics for analysis, injecting bias into your study and in interpreting results, being careless with your research methodology

mixed methods research

when researchers use both quantitative and qualitative methods in a project


The most commonly occurring value of a variable.

multivariate analysis

A group of statistical techniques that examines the relationship between at least three variables

Mutually exclusive categories

Mutually exclusive categories are options for closed ended questions that do not overlap.


Those stories that we compose as human beings that allow us to make meaning of our experiences and the world around us

National Research Act

US legislation passed In 1974, which created the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects in Biomedical and Behavioral Research, which went on to produce The Belmont Report.

natural setting

collecting data in the field where it naturally/normally occurs


Making qualitative observations that attempt to capture the subjects of the observation as unobtrusively as possible and with limited structure to the observation.

negative case analysis

Including data that contrasts, contradicts, or challenges the majority of evidence that we have found or expect to find

negative correlation

occurs when two variables change in opposite directions - one goes up, the other goes down and vice versa

negotiated outcomes

ensuring that we have correctly captured and reflected an accurate understanding in our findings by clarifying and verifying our findings with our participants


The idea that qualitative researchers attempt to limit or at the very least account for their own biases, motivations, interests and opinions during the research process.


The lowest level of measurement; denoted by having mutually exclusive categories only. Lacks categories associated with higher levels of measurement.

nominal definition

Dictionary definition of a concept, not measurable. Often used as the start of defining a concept.


A type of understanding that

nomothetic causal explanations

provides a more general, sweeping explanation that is universally true for all people

non-probability sampling

sampling approaches for which a person’s likelihood of being selected for membership in the sample is unknown


Referring to data analysis that doesn't examine how variables relate to each other.

non-response bias

If the majority of the targeted respondents fail to respond to a survey, then a legitimate concern is whether non-respondents are not responding due to a systematic reason, which may raise questions about the validity of the study’s results, especially as this relates to the representativeness of the sample.

nonresponse Bias

The bias that occurs when those who respond to your request to participate in a study are different from those who do not respond to you request to participate in a study.

null hypothesis

the assumption that no relationship exists between the variables in question

Nuremberg Code

The Nuremberg Code is a 10-point set of research principles designed to guide doctors and scientists who conduct research on human subjects, crafted in response to the atrocities committed during the Holocaust.

objective truth

a single truth, observed without bias, that is universally applicable


Observation is a tool for data gathering where researchers rely on their own senses (e.g. sight, sound) to gather information on a topic.

observational terms

In measurement, conditions that are easy to identify and verify through direct observation.


The rows in your data set. In social work, these are often your study participants (people), but can be anything from census tracts to black bears to trains.

observer triangulation

including more than one member of your research team to aid in analyzing the data

Office of Human Research Protections

The federal government agency that oversees IRBs.

one-way ANOVA

a statistical procedure to compare the means of a variable across three or more groups


assumptions about what is real and true

open access

journal articles that are made freely available by the publisher

open coding

An initial phase of coding that involves reviewing the data to determine the preliminary ideas that seem important and potential labels that reflect their significance.  

open science

sharing one's data and methods for the purposes of replication, verifiability, and collaboration of findings

open-ended question

Question type in which participants are asked to provide a detailed answer to a question.

operational definitions

The concrete and specific defintion of something in terms of the operations by which observations can be categorized.


The process of determining how to measure a construct that cannot be directly observed

oral histories

Oral histories are a type of qualitative research design that offers a detailed accounting of a person's life, some event, or experience. This story(ies) is aimed at answering a specific research question.

oral presentation

verbal presentation of research findings to a conference audience


Level of measurement that follows nominal level. Has mutually exclusive categories and a hierarchy (order).


The final condition that occurs at the end of an intervention or program.


Extreme values in your data.


summarizes the incompatibility between a particular set of data and a proposed model for the data, usually the null hypothesis. The lower the p-value, the more inconsistent the data are with the null hypothesis, indicating that the relationship is statistically significant.

panel presentations

group presentations that feature experts on a given issue, with time for audience question-and-answer

panel survey

A type of longitudinal design where the researchers gather data at multiple points in time and the same people participate in the survey each time it is administered.


way of viewing the world (or “analytic lens” akin to a set of glasses) and a framework from which to understand the human experience (Kuhn, 1962)


Those who are asked to contribute data in a research study; sometimes called respondents or subjects.

participatory research

An approach to research that more intentionally attempts to involve community members throughout the research process compared to more traditional research methods. In addition, participatory approaches often seek some concrete, tangible change for the benefit of the community (often defined by the community).


when a publisher prevents access to reading content unless the user pays money

peer debriefing

A qualitative research tool for enhancing rigor by partnering with a peer researcher who is not connected with your project (therefore more objective), to discuss project details, your decision, perhaps your reflexive journal, as a means of helping to reduce researcher bias and maintain consistency and transparency in the research process.

peer review

a formal process in which other esteemed researchers and experts ensure your work meets the standards and expectations of the professional field


trade publications, magazines, and newspapers


the tendency for a pattern to occur at regular intervals


A qualitative research design that aims to capture and describe the lived experience of some event or "phenomenon" for a group of people.


Photovoice is a technique that merges pictures with narrative (word or voice data that helps that interpret the meaning or significance of the visual artifact. It is often used as a tool in CBPR.

pilot testing

Testing out your research materials in advance on people who are not included as participants in your study.


as a criteria for causal relationship, the relationship must make logical sense and seem possible

political case

A purposive sampling strategy that focuses on selecting cases that are important in representing a contemporary politicized issue.


the larger group of people you want to be able to make conclusions about based on the conclusions you draw from the people in your sample

positionality statement

A statement about the researchers worldview and life experiences, specifically in respect to the research topic they are studying. It helps to demonstrate the subjective connection(s) the researcher has to the topic and is a way to encourage transparency in research.

positive correlation

Occurs when two variables move together in the same direction - as one increases, so does the other, or, as one decreases, so does the other


a paradigm guided by the principles of objectivity, knowability, and deductive logic


A measure of a participant's condition after an intervention or, if they are part of the control/comparison group, at the end of an experiment.

Post-test only control group design

an experimental design in which participants are randomly assigned to control and treatment groups, one group receives an intervention, and both groups receive only a post-test assessment

poster presentation

presentations that use a poster to visually represent the elements of the study


the odds you will detect a significant relationship between variables when one is truly present in your sample

practical articles

describe “how things are done” or comment on pressing issues in practice (Wallace & Wray, 2016, p. 20)

practical implications

How well your findings can be translated and used in the "real world." For example, you may have a statistically significant correlation; however, the relationship may be very weak. This limits your abiltiy to use these data for real world change.

practice wisdom

“learning by doing” that guides social work intervention and increases over time

predictive validity

A type of criterion validity that examines how well your tool predicts a future criterion.


A measure of a participant's condition before they receive an intervention or treatment.

pretest and post-test control group design

a type of experimental design in which participants are randomly assigned to control and experimental groups, one group receives an intervention, and both groups receive pre- and post-test assessments

primary data

Data you have collected yourself.

primary source

in a literature review, a source that describes primary data collected and analyzed by the author, rather than only reviewing what other researchers have found

principle of replication

This means that one scientist could repeat another’s study with relative ease. By replicating a study, we may become more (or less) confident in the original study’s findings.

probability proportionate to size

in cluster sampling, giving clusters different chances of being selected based on their size so that each element within those clusters has an equal chance of being selected

probability sampling

sampling approaches for which a person’s likelihood of being selected from the sampling frame is known


Probes a brief prompts or follow up questions that are used in qualitative interviewing to help draw out additional information on a particular question or idea.

process evaluation

An analysis of how well your program ended up running, and sometimes how well it's going in real time.

process of measurement

Taking an item or concept and defining it so specifically that it can be measured with little error

professional development

the "uptake of formal and informal learning opportunities that deepen and extend...professional competence, including knowledge, beliefs, motivation, and self-regulatory skills" (Richter, Kunter, Klusmann, Lüdtke, & Baumert, 2014)

program evaluation

The systematic process by which we determine if social programs are meeting their goals, how well the program runs, whether the program had the desired effect, and whether the program has merit according to stakeholders (including in terms of the monetary costs and benefits)

prolonged engagement

As researchers, this means we are extensively spending time with participants or are in the community we are studying.


Fake names assigned in research to protect the identity of participants.


claims about the world that appear scientific but are incompatible with the values and practices of science


The science of measurement. Involves using theory to assess measurement procedures and tools.

public approach

approach to recruitment where participants are sought in public spaces


In a purposive sample, participants are intentionally or hand-selected because of their specific expertise or experience.

qualitative data

data derived from analysis of texts. Usually, this is word data (like a conversation or journal entry) but can also include performances, pictures, and other means of expressing ideas.

qualitative methods

qualitative methods interpret language and behavior to understand the world from the perspectives of other people

qualitative research

Research that involves the use of data that represents human expression through words, pictures, movies, performance and other artifacts.

quantitative data

numerical data

quantitative methods

quantitative methods examine numerical data to precisely describe and predict elements of the social world

Quasi-experimental designs

a subtype of experimental design that is similar to a true experiment, but does not have randomly assigned control and treatment groups

Queer(ing) methodologies

Research methods using this approach aim to question, challenge and/or reject knowledge that is commonly accepted and privileged in society and elevate and empower knowledge and perspectives that are often perceived as non-normative.


search terms used in a database to find sources of information, like articles or webpages


The actual tool that collects data in survey research.


A quota sample involves the researcher identifying a subgroups within a population that they want to make sure to include in their sample, and then identifies a quota or target number to recruit that represent each of these subgroups.

random assignment

using a random process to decide which participants are tested in which conditions

random errors

Errors lack any perceptable pattern.

randomized controlled trial

an experiment that involves random assignment to a control and experimental group to evaluate the impact of an intervention or stimulus

randomly selection

An approach to sampling where all elements or people in a sampling frame have an equal chance of being selected for inclusion in a study's sample.


The difference between the highest and lowest scores in the distribution.


The highest level of measurement. Denoted by mutually exclusive categories, a hierarchy (order), values can be added, subtracted, multiplied, and divided, and the presence of an absolute zero.

raw data

unprocessed data that researchers can analyze using quantitative and qualitative methods (e.g., responses to a survey or interview transcripts)

recall bias

When respondents have difficult providing accurate answers to questions due to the passage of time.

reciprocal determinism

Concept advanced by Albert Bandura that human behavior both shapes and is shaped by their environment.


The act of putting the deconstructed qualitative back together during the analysis process in the search for meaning and ultimately the results of the study.


the process by which the researcher informs potential participants about the study and attempts to get them to participate

reflexive journal

A research journal that helps the researcher to reflect on and consider their thoughts and reactions to the research process and how it may be shaping the study


How we understand and account for our influence, as researchers, on the research process.


The ability of a measurement tool to measure a phenomenon the same way, time after time. Note: Reliability does not imply validity.

representative sample

"a sample that looks like the population from which it was selected in all respects that are potentially relevant to the study" (Engel & Schutt, 2011)


How closely your sample resembles the population from which it was drawn.

research data repository

These are sites where contributing researchers can house data that other researchers can view and request permission to use

research methods

the methods researchers use to examine empirical data

research proposal

a document produced by researchers that reviews the literature relevant to their topic and describes the methods they will use to conduct their study

research protocol

The details/steps outlining how a study will be carried out.

researcher bias

The unintended influence that the researcher may have on the research process.

respect for persons

One of the three ethical principles espoused in the Belmont Report. Treating people as autonomous beings who have the right to make their own decisions. Acknowledging participants' personal dignity.

retrospective survey

Similar to other longitudinal studies, these surveys deal with changes over time, but like a cross-sectional study, they are administered only once. In a retrospective survey, participants are asked to report events from the past.

review articles

journal articles that summarize the findings other researchers and establish the state of the literature in a given topic area


Rigor is the process through which we demonstrate, to the best of our ability, that our research is empirically sound and reflects a scientific approach to knowledge building.

roundtable presentations

facilitated discussions on a topic, often to generate new ideas


the group of people you successfully recruit from your sampling frame to participate in your study

sample size

The number of cases found in your final sample.

sampling bias

Sampling bias is present when our sampling process results in a sample that does not represent our population in some way.

sampling distribution

the set of all possible samples you could possibly draw for your study

sampling error

The difference between what you find in a sample and what actually exists in the population from which the sample was drawn.

sampling frame

the list of people from which a researcher will draw her sample


The point where gathering more data doesn't offer any new ideas or perspectives on the issue you are studying.  Reaching saturation is an indication that we can stop qualitative data collection.


A way to measure a concept. This consists of multiple items combined to form some type of score.

scatter plot

A graphical representation of data where the y-axis (the vertical one along the side) is your variable's value and the x-axis (the horizontal one along the bottom) represents the individual instance in your data.


Visual representations of the relationship between two interval/ratio variables that usually use dots to represent data points


a way of knowing that attempts to systematically collect and categorize facts or truths

secondary data

Data someone else has collected that you have permission to use in your research.

secondary data analysis

study publicly available information or data that has been collected by another person

secondary sources

interpret, discuss, and summarize primary sources

selection bias

the degree to which people in my sample differs from the overall population

selection interval

the distance between the elements you select for inclusion in your study

selective or theoretical coding

Selective or theoretical coding is part of a qualitative analysis process that seeks to determine how important concepts and their relationships to each other come together, providing a theory that describes the focus of the study. It often results in an overarching or unifying idea tying these concepts together.

self-administered questionnaires

Questionnaires that are distributed to participants (in person, by mail, virtually) and they are asked to complete them independently.

semi-structured interviews

An interview that has a general framework for the questions that will be asked, but there is more flexibility to pursue related topics that are brought up by participants than is found in a structured interview approach.

seminal article

a classic work of research literature that is more than 5 years old and is marked by its uniqueness and contribution to professional knowledge” (Houser, 2018, p. 112)


in mixed methods research, this refers to the order each method is used


the words used to identify the organization and structure of your literature review to your reader

simple random sampling

selecting elements from a list using randomly generated numbers

skewed distribution

A distribution where cases are clustered on one or the other side of the median.


For a snowball sample, a few initial participants are recruited and then we rely on those initial (and successive) participants to help identify additional people to recruit. We thus rely on participants connects and knowledge of the population to aid our recruitment.

social desirability

When a participant answers in a way that they believe is socially the most acceptable answer.

social desirability bias

Social desirability bias occurs when we create questions that lead respondents to answer in ways that don't reflect their genuine thoughts or feelings to avoid being perceived negatively.

social science

the science of humanity, social interactions, and social structures

split-half reliability

A reliability evaluation that examines the internal consistency of a a measurement tool. This process involves comparing one half of a tool to the other half of the same tool and evaluating the results.


A relationship where it appears that two variables are related BUT they aren't. Another variable is actually influencing the relationship.

spurious relationship

when a relationship between two variables appears to be causal but can in fact be explained by influence of a third variable


individuals or groups who have an interest in the outcome of the study you conduct

statistical power

The ability to fail to accept the null hypotheses (i.e., actually find what you are seeking)

statistical significance

"Assuming that the null hypothesis is true and the study is repeated an infinite number times by drawing random samples from the same populations(s), less than 5% of these results will be more extreme than the current result" (Cassidy et al., 2019, p. 233).


the characteristic by which the sample is divided in stratified random sampling

stratified random sampling

dividing the study population into subgroups based on a characteristic (or strata) and then drawing a sample from each subgroup

structured interview

Interview that uses a very prescribed or structured approach, with a rigid set of questions that are asked very consistently each time, with little to no deviation

study identification codes

Numbers or a series of numbers, symbols and letters assigned in research to both organize data as it is collected, as well as protecting the identity of participants.

subjective truths

one truth among many, bound within a social and cultural context

survey design

The use of questionnaires to gather data from multiple participants.

survey research

A type of research design in which participants are asked to answer questions that are then analyzed by the researcher. Data may be collected in two major ways--interviews or questionnaires.

symmetrical distribution

A distribution with a roughly equal number of cases on either side of the median.

systematic errors

Errors that are generally predictable.

systematic review

journal articles that identify, appraise, and synthesize all relevant studies on a particular topic (Uman, 2011, p.57)

systematic sampling

selecting every kth element from your sampling frame


a quick, condensed summary of the report’s key findings arranged by row and column

tacit knowledge

knowledge that is difficult to express in words and may be conveyed more through intuition or feelings

target population

the group of people whose needs your study addresses

targeted approach

approach to recruitment where participants are based on some personal characteristic or group association


as a criteria for causal relationship, the cause must come before the effect

tentative application of findings

any findings that follow from constructivist studies are not inherently applicable to other people or situations, as their realities may be quite different

tertiary sources

review primary and secondary sources

test-retest reliability

The extent to which scores obtained on a scale or other measure are consistent across time

testing effect

The measurement error related to how a test is given; the conditions of the testing, including environmental conditions; and acclimation to the test itself

The Belmont Report

The Belmont Report is a document outlining basic ethical principles for research on human subjects in the United States and is the foundation of work conducted by IRBs in carrying out their task of overseeing protection of human subjects in research (National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects in Biomedical and Behavioral Research, 1979).

the literature

published works that document a scholarly conversation on a specific topic within and between disciplines

thematic analysis

Thematic analysis is an approach to qualitative analysis, in which the researcher attempts to identify themes or patterns across their data to better understand the topic being studied.

thematic map or thematic array

A visual representation of how each individual category fits with the others when using thematic analysis to analyze your qualitative data.

theoretical articles

discuss a theory, conceptual model, or framework for understanding a problem


“a systematic set of interrelated statements intended to explain some aspect of social life” (Rubin & Babbie, 2017, p. 615)

thick description

A thick description is a very complete, detailed, and illustrative of the subject that is being described.

time order

A demonstration that a change occurred after an intervention. An important criterion for establishing causality.

time series

a set of measurements taken at intervals over a period of time

trade publications

periodicals directed to members of a specific profession which often include information about industry trends and practical information for people working in the field


To type out the text of recorded interview or focus group.


The process of research is record and described in such a way that the steps the researcher took throughout the research process are clear.

treatment fidelity

ensuring that everyone receives the same, or close to the same, treatment as possible

trend survey

A type of longitudinal survey where the researchers gather data at multiple times, but each time they ask different people from the group they are studying because their concern is capturing the sentiment of the group, not the individual people they survey.


Triangulation of data refers to the use of multiple types, measures or sources of data in a research project to increase the confidence that we have in our findings.

true experimental design

An experimental design in which one or more independent variables are manipulated by the researcher (as treatments), subjects are randomly assigned to different treatment levels (random assignment), and the results of the treatments on outcomes (dependent variables) are observed


Trustworthiness is a quality reflected by qualitative research that is conducted in a credible way; a way that should produce confidence in its findings.

trustworthy data

Data that accurately portrays information that was shared in or by the original source.

truth value

The level of confidence that research is obtained through a systematic and scientific process and that findings can be clearly connected to the data they are based on (and not some fabrication or falsification of that data).

two-way ANOVA

a statistical procedure to compare the means of a variable across groups using multiple independent variables to distinguish among groups

typical case sampling

A purposive sampling strategy where you select cases that represent the most common/ a commonly held perspective.

unimodal distribution

A distribution with one distinct peak when represented on a histogram.

unit of analysis

entity that a researcher wants to say something about at the end of her study (individual, group, or organization)

unit of observation

the entities that a researcher actually observes, measures, or collects in the course of trying to learn something about her unit of analysis (individuals, groups, or organizations)


discrete segments of data

univariate data analysis

Univariate data analysis is a quantitative method in which a variable is examined individually to determine its distribution.

unstructured interviews

Interviews that contain very open-ended talking prompt that we want participants to respond to, with much flexibility to follow the conversation where it leads.


The extent to which the scores from a measure represent the variable they are intended to.


The extent to which the levels of a variable vary around their central tendency (the mean, median, or mode).

variable name

The name of your variable.


“a logical grouping of attributes that can be observed and measured and is expected to vary from person to person in a population” (Gillespie & Wagner, 2018, p. 9)

vulnerable populations

People who are at risk of undue influence or coercion. Examples are children, prisoners, parolees, and persons with impaired mental capabilities. Additional groups may be vulnerable if they are deemed to be unable to give consent.


thing that is a thing


interactive presentations which go hands-on with audience members to teach them new skills

  1. PAR-L. (2010). Introduction to feminist research. [Webpage].,standpoints%20and%20experiences%20of%20women.


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Graduate research methods in social work by Matthew DeCarlo, Cory Cummings, Kate Agnelli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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