Research Terms: An Annotated List of Useful Terms in Research

Action Research: The term, ‘Action research’ was first coined by Kurt Lewin, in about 1944, and it appears in his 1946 paper "Action Research and Minority Problems". It is a methodology that seeks transformative change through the simultaneous process of taking action and conducting research. It emphasizes on a local problem requiring immediate actions. Stephen Kemmis and  Robin McTaggart (1988) developed a concept for action research. They proposed a spiral model comprising four steps: Plan, act, observe and reflect. According to them, action research is a series of cyclical process of planning, acting, observing, reflecting and then re-planning in light of the knowledge gained through the cycle.

Applied Research: Research carried out for practical applications and problem solving functions.  It is a methodology used to solve a specific, practical issue affecting an individual or group by the application of existing scientific knowledge, such as technology or inventions. Action research is an example of applied research used to solve everyday problems.

Basic Research: Research carried out to discover something simply for the sake of knowledge to improve our understanding of the world, and for academic rather than commercial purposes. However, in the long run, it can be the basis for many commercial products and applied research. Basic research is also known as ‘Fundamental Research’ or ‘Pure research’.

Cohort Studies: Examines different samples of a specific sub-population or cohort (group of people) over a period of time to examine how they may have changed during that period. Cohort studies, mainly used in medical research, are a type of longitudinal study – an approach that follows research participants (cohort) over a period of time to establish links between risk factors and health outcomes.

Census: A sample that includes every member of the targeted population of the research study.

Content Analysis: A quantitative research method used to analyze the presence of certain words, themes, or concepts within a given text, document or messages in a systematic and objective manner to measure and compare their various characteristics.

Covert Observation: A particular type of participant observation in which the researcher joins the group he/she intends to study and the identity of the researcher, the nature of the research project, and the fact that participants are being observed are concealed from those who are being studied.

Longitudinal study: Longitudinal study is an observational research method in which data is gathered for the same subjects repeatedly over a period of time. Longitudinal research projects can extend over years or even decades. In a longitudinal cohort study, the same individuals are observed over the study period.

Population/Universe: The entire group of people or items that the researcher wants to study.

Finite Population: A population is said to be finite if exact number of respondents in the population is known.

Infinite Population: A population is said to be infinite if the exact number of respondents in the population is not known.

Samples: Samples are drawn from populations. The portion of the population, the researcher select for the study.

Small Sample: If the sample size n is less than 30 (n<30), it is termed as small sample. In case of small sample, t-test is applied.

Large Sample: If the sample size n is greater than 30 (n≥30) it is known as large sample. In case of large sample, z-test is applied.

Parameter: Fact about a population. Statistical values related to population are called parameter.
Statistic: Fact about a sample. Statistical values related to sample are called statistic.

Hypothesis: A tentative explanation based on theory to predict a causal relationship between variables. It is an assumption which is yet to be tested. According to George Lundberg, “a hypothesis is a tentative generalization, the validity of which remains to be tested…?".

Null Hypothesis: Null hypothesis states that there is no difference between groups. The alternative hypothesis states that there is some real difference between two or more groups.

Research Variable: Any characteristic or trait that can vary from one person to another (race, gender, academic major) or for one person over time (age, political beliefs).

Dependent Variable: The variable the researcher seeks to explain, measure and observe – but cannot manipulate. In other words, a dependent variable is what you measure in the experiment and what is affected during the experiment.

Independent variable: The variable that is systematically changed or manipulated by the researcher, to observe the changes it makes on the dependent variable. In a scientific experiment, you cannot have a dependent variable without an independent variable. In a questionnaire, questions on age, income and gender are examples of Independent variable. 

Parametric Tests: Parametric tests are used when we have information about the population parameter or at least certain assumptions can be made regarding the characteristics of the population.

Non-Parametric Tests: Non-Parametric tests are used when the researcher has no idea about the population parameter, neither he can make any assumptions about the population.

Mean: Also known as the ‘average’, it is the median of a set of values.

Median: The mid-point of a set of values, when they are arranged in ascending or descending order.

Mode: The value that occurs most often in a distribution of values for a given variable.

Analysis of Variance (ANOVA): A statistical test that determines whether the means of two or more groups are significantly different.

Supra: Supra (Latin for "above") is an academic and legal citation signal used when a writer desires to refer a reader to an earlier-cited authority.

Ibid: ibid. is an abbreviation for the Latin word 'ib─źdem', meaning ‘in the same place’, commonly used in a footnote, endnote, bibliographic citation, or scholarly reference to refer to the source cited in the preceding note or list item. When two consecutive notes come from the same place, the word ibid. is used for the second note. In other words, ibid is used for referring to the same reference cited immediately above.

Loc. cit.: Loc. cit. is a short for Latin term  ‘loco citato’, meaning ‘in the place cited’ is a footnote or endnote term used to repeat the title and page number for a given work (and author). Loc. cit. is used when the reference is not immediately proceeding, but refers to the same page. 

Op. cit.: Op. cit. is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase ‘opus citato’, meaning ‘the work cited’. It is neither used to repeat immediately preceding reference nor to refer to reference on the same page but ‘refers to reference cited previously in the work’. Op. cit. should never therefore be used on its own, which would be meaningless, but most often with the author's surname or another brief clue as to which work is referred to.

Peer Review: Evaluation of Scientific, academic and professional work by one or more people with similar competences as the producers of the work. It is a process by which a research publication is evaluated (before publication) by a group of experts in the appropriate field.

Double-blind review: Reviewer and author identities are concealed from the reviewers and vice-versa.

Panel Study: A longitudinal study in which a group of individuals is interviewed at intervals over a period of time.

Axiom: Derived from Greek language, axiom is a statement widely accepted as truth, to serve as a premise or starting point for further reasoning and arguments.

Focus group: A qualitative data collection method using an interview with a small group of people, all at one time, to explore ideas on a particular topic. The goal of a focus group is to uncover additional information through participants' exchange of ideas.

Literature Review: It is a comprehensive survey of the research literature on a topic. Generally the literature review is presented at the beginning of a research paper and explains how the researcher arrived at his/her research questions.

Research Methodology: The principles, procedures, and strategies of research used in a study for gathering information, analyzing data, and drawing conclusions. 

Research Design: Research design is the overall structure of a research project. It is a blueprint that is followed in completing a study.

Pilot Study: A preliminary trial of the study, or a mini study, and should be performed before the final study.

Probability Sampling: A random sample of a population, which ensures that each member of the population has an equal chance of being selected for the sample.

Non-Probability Sampling: A sample where each member or unit in the study population does not have an equal chance of being selected.

Qualitative Research: A field of social research that is carried out in naturalistic settings and generates data largely through observations and interviews. Compared to quantitative research, which is principally concerned with making inferences from randomly selected samples to a larger population, qualitative research is primarily focused on describing small samples in non-statistical ways.

Inferences: A conclusion reached on the basis of evidence and reasoning.

Snowball Sample: Also known as referrals, the sample is made up of referrals from subjects who identified other suitable subjects, usually in areas that are difficult to conduct research in. In other words, this sampling technique involves tracing rare sample through referrals from the already identified members of the sample.

Quota Sample: Quota sampling is a non-probabilistic sampling method where the researchers divide the survey population into mutually exclusive subgroups. These subgroups are selected with respect to certain known features, traits, or interests. People in each subgroup are then selected by the researcher by fixing a quota and thus the assembled sample has the same proportions of individuals as the entire population with respect to known characteristics, traits or focused phenomenon.

Purposive Sample: It is a non-probability sample design in which the researcher purposively or deliberately selects certain units of the universe to form a sample that would represent the whole universe. In other words, it is a sampling with a purpose. It is also known as deliberate sampling.

Cluster Sample: Cluster sampling is a sampling method in which the entire population of the study is divided into externally homogeneous but internally heterogeneous groups called clusters. Ideally, each cluster is a mini-representation of the entire population. After identifying the clusters, certain clusters are chosen using simple random sampling as the sample of the proposed study.

Text Recycling: Also referred to as ‘Self Plagiarism’, is the reproduction of an author’s own text from a previous publication in a new publication.


1.      For referring to an earlier reference on the same page, but not immediately preceding, which one is used?
A.     Loc. cit.
B.     Op. cit.
C.     Ibid
D.     Referred to above

2.      The t-test is applied when sample size is __.
A.     Small
B.     Big
C.     Uncountable
D.     Scattered

3.    In a questionnaire, questions on age, income and gender are examples of ____.
A.     Dependent variable
B.     Independent variable
C.     Intervening variable
D.     Manipulation variable

4.    In academic writings, ‘Supra’ denotes:
A.     Above
B.     Below
C.     No Publisher is given
D.     No Place is given

5.    ‘Double-blind review’ means ___.
A.    Reviewer and author identities are concealed from the reviewers and vice-versa
B.    Review is done two times
C.    Only Reviewer  identity is concealed
D.    Only author identity is concealed

6.    Who stated that “a hypothesis is a tentative generalization, the validity of which remains to be tested…?
A.    Barr and Scates
B.    George Lundberg
C.     J. S. Mill
D.     A.     P.V. Young

7.   In doing action research what is the usual sequence of steps?
A.     Reflect, observe, plan, act
B.     Plan, act, observe, reflect
C.     Plan, reflect, observe, act
D.    Act, observe, plan, reflect

8.   In research, ‘Pilot study’ is needed to ___.
A.     Select the topic/problem
B.     Test the instrument
C.     Review the literature
D.     Compile the bibliography

9.    In which of the following sampling techniques, does a researcher asks participants to identify other potential participants?
A.     Snowball
B.     Convenience
C.     Purposive
D.     Quota

10.  In which of the following studies, a researcher is required to examine some specific sub-population, as they change with time?
A.    Trend Study
B.     Cohort Study
C.     Cross Sectional Study
D.     Panel Study

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