Research glossary

These definitions are provided by the Learning Development Centres at Glasgow Caledonian University. We also have a list of types of research.

  • Abstract A brief written summary of the purpose, aims, results and conclusions of your research; separate from the dissertation.
  • Bibliography An ordered list of all works consulted or referred to in the assignment.
  • Convenience sample A sample chosen because it is easily accessed.
  • Data All the information and facts collected.
  • Dependent variable A variable which takes on values when an independent variable is deliberately altered.
  • Empirical Based on observation, experiment and recording.
  • Epistemology The philosophy of knowledge and ways of knowing.
  • Ethics Protocols adopted to ensure research is confidential and sensitive
  • Ethnography Study of a group’s culture, customs and behaviour by observation and recording.
  • Experiment Obtaining data by quantitative methods with scientific precision and control.
  • Generalisability This tests whether your results can be applied or be useful to others.
  • Hypothesis A tentative or supposed proposition based on observed happenings or theories about a testable relationship or quality.
  • Independent variable The variable controlled by the researcher to investigate its effects on others.
  • Instrument Any research ‘tool’ such as a questionnaire used to obtain data.
  • Interpretative Subjective explaining and interpreting data.
  • Interval scale A scale where test and measurement results have supposedly equal intervals.
  • Nominal scale Scales designed to label or categorise groups and their qualities.
  • Ordinal scale Ranking people according to how they possess a given quality.
  • Positivist Considering only observable, objective facts.
  • Purposive sample A non-random sample of those believed to be representative.
  • Questionnaire A structured set of written questions to obtain information from a sample.
  • Random sample Every member of the population has an equal chance of being selected.
  • Ratio scale A scale that has intervals and an absolute zero.
  • Reliability Would you get the same results if you repeated the procedure?
  • Research question A proposed focus of inquiry; what you want to find out.
  • Sample A group selected from a studied population which supposedly possesses the same characteristics as the whole.
  • Stratified sample A proportional sample selected to represent an identifiable group
  • Survey A method of obtaining data about variables from a population or a sample.
  • Systematic sample A sample taken at equal, regular intervals, such as every tenth name on a register.
  • Validity How far you are actually measuring the variable that you say you are measuring.

Creative Commons Licence

SMILE - How to assess a research article by GCU School of Health and Life Sciences modified by Marion Kelt, Glasgow Caledonian University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.