Research Terms and Definitions

1.  Delimitations: address how the study will be narrowed in scope.

2.  Descriptive statistics:  those statistics that describe, organize, and summarize data (frequencies, percentages, descriptions of central tendency and descriptions of relative position).

3.  Debriefing: debriefing: after the participants have concluded their participation in the study, each participant should have an opportunity to meet with the primary researcher or receive information regarding the study and timeline for completion of the study.

4.  Expedited Review: consists of a review of research involving human participants by the IRB chairperson or by one or more experienced reviewers designated by the chairperson from among members of the IRB.  The IRB will assure that the standard requirements for informed consent (or its waiver, alteration, or exception) apply regardless of the type of review.  The expedited review procedure may be used for research activities that

(1)   present no more than minimal risk to human participants, and

(2)   involve only procedures listed in one or more of the following categories.  See page 8 of the McKendree Institutional Review Board Policies and Procedures Manual for categories and further specific information.

5.  Exempt: research exempt from IRB Review, see page 13 of the McKendree Institutional Review Board Policies and Procedures Manual.

6.  Hypothesis:  hypotheses represent specific restatements of the purpose of the study, which can be directional or non-directional. Write in literary form which means that the variables will be stated in abstract, concept-oriented language or operational form which uses specific language.

7.  Inferential statistics: allow the researcher to make inferences from the sample to the population in order to speculate, reason, and generalize about the population from the sample findings. Must have sufficient subjects and random selection. Tests include t tests, F tests, and tests for r.

8.  Informed Consent: Subjects and participants must understand the nature of the project, what procedures will be used, and to what use the results will be put. See general requirements and exceptions on pages 15-17 of the McKendree Institutional Review Board Policies and Procedures Manual. Also see sample consent form, page 20 as well as sample provided separately on IRB Webpage.

9.  Limitations: identify potential weaknesses of the study.

10.  Research Methodology:  The method of research design (paradigm as well as statistics and analysis) as well as the approximate timeline for completion of the study.

11.  Nonparametric Data: nominal and ordinal data.

12.  Parametric Data: interval data and ratio data.

13.  Pilot study: a preliminary trial of the study, or a ministudy, and should be performed before the final study.

14.  Purpose of the study: specific research aims and objectives for the research.

A.  Clear statement of purpose of the study: Should tell the reader what you hope to accomplish regarding the problem by carrying out your study.  Be clear by starting the sentence, “The purpose of the research is…..” Then describe your intentions.

B.  Problem statement: the issue that exists in the literature, theory, or practice that leads to a need for the study.

15.  Qualitative Research: trying to verify or generate descriptive theory that is grounded in the data gleaned from the investigation (naturalistic).  The approaches  include:

A. Naturalistic Settings: descriptive and naturalistic, with natural settings as the source of data.

B.  Local Groundedness: focus on naturally occurring, ordinary events in natural settings.

C.  Phenomenological Perspective: meaning from the participant’s point of view.

May use the following research strategies: Ethnography, Ethnography of Communication, Ethnomethodology, Phenomenology, Unobtrusive (Nonreactive) Research and Observe Studies, Participant Observation, Interview Strategies, and Archival Strategies.

16.  Quantitative Research: answer a specific research question by showing statistical evidence that the data may be addressed in a particular way (experimental).

Research Design:

A.  True Experimental: there must be an element of control, independent variables concerning the subjects must be manipulated, and subjects must be randomly selected or randomly assigned to groups (cause and effect).

B.  Quasi-experimental: contains an independent variable that is manipulated in order to look for an effect on a dependent variable.  However, control or randomization is lacking.

C.  Nonexperimental: there is no manipulation of an independent variable. Control and randomization are possible or even relevant facets of this type of research.

17.  Research:


Pure: abstract and general, concerned with generating new theory and gaining new knowledge for the knowledge’s sake.


Applied: designed to answer a practical question, to help people do their jobs better.


Experimental: manipulating one variable to see its effects on another variable, while controlling for as many other variables as possible and randomly assigned subjects to groups.


Descriptive: describing a group, a situation, or an individual to gain knowledge which may be applied to further groups or situations, as in case studies or trend analyses.


Clinical: performed in the “real world” where control over variables is quite difficult.


Laboratory: performed in “unreal” or laboratory surroundings that are tightly controlled.


18.  Research variable: any attribute or characteristic that can vary, such as diagnosis, age, heart rate, elbow flexion and self esteem.

A.  Dependent variable: item observed and measured at the beginning and end of the study.

B.  Independent variable: Sometimes called the experimental or treatment variable

C.  Control: refers to the experimenter’s ability to control or eliminate interfering and irrelevant influences.

D.  Randomization

1.  Random selection: every subject in the population concerned has an equal chance of being selected for the study sample.

2.  Random assignment: those subjects in the selected sample each have an equal chance of being assigned to either the experimental group or the control group.

E.  Population: the entire group of people or items that meet the criteria set by the researcher.

1.  Subpopulation: a researcher-defined subgroup of the population.

2.  Sample: selected from the population or the subpopulation

3.  Convenience samples: those participants that can be studied most easily, cheaply, or quickly.

19.  Risk: refers to a possibility that harm may occur.

A.  Minimal risk: means that the probability and magnitude of harm or discomfort anticipated in the research are not greater in and of themselves that hose ordinarily encountered in daily life and during the performance of routine physical or psychological examinations or tests (Belmont Report).

20.  Special Populations (vulnerable groups): those participants that fit one or more of the following categories:

A.  Under the age of 18

B.  Cognitive or physically challenged

C.  Pregnant Subjects

D.  Subjects whose major language is not English

E.  Prisoners, parolees, incarcerated subjects

F.  Terminally ill subjects