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Research Methods Help Guide

Basic information on research methods concepts.

Definitions You Need to Know

Constant: a fixed value. Not a variable.

Variable: a value or characteristic that differs among individuals. It can be described, counted, or measured.

Independent Variable: the variable researchers manipulate in an experiment. Affects the dependent variable(s).

Dependent Variable: the variable affected by the independent variable in an experiment.

Sample: a smaller group selected from a larger group (the population). Researchers study samples to draw conclusions about the larger group.

Population: the entire collection of people, animals, plants, things, etc. researchers wish to examine. Since populations are often too large to include every member in a study, researchers work with samples to describe or draw conclusions about the entire population group using statistical tests.

Participant: an individual who participates in a study. This is a more recent term. (Used with human research.)

Subject: another way to describe a participant. This is a more traditional term. (Used with human and animal research.)

Attrition: loss of participants/subjects in a study.

Reliability: the extent to which a measure or tool yields consistent results on repeated trials.

Validity: the degree to which a study accurately assesses what it is attempting to assess.