Glossary of Scientific Research Terms

Scientific research fuels progress, helping people to solve complex problems, answer questions, develop new materials and technologies, make more informed decisions, and better understand the world. Like many areas of expertise, scientific research has its own vocabulary, which can make understanding what scientists are talking about a bit more challenging. But by learning some basic terms, you can gain a clearer picture of what's going on in the world of scientific study.

Abstract: A short summary of a research article, thesis, or academic paper. It summarizes the essential components of the work, including its purpose, methodology, results, and conclusions. Researchers often read abstracts to quickly assess whether a study aligns with their interests.

Analysis: Interpreting data collected during a study. Researchers examine data to find patterns, relationships, and trends that can help them draw meaningful conclusions.

Bias: A failure to maintain accuracy and objectivity in research methods. Common sources of bias include sampling errors, measurement inaccuracies, and researcher subjectivity.

Blinding: Blinding keeps participants and researchers unaware of which treatment or intervention participants receive. By preventing expectations or preferences from influencing outcomes, blinding reduces bias. Single-blind studies conceal information from participants, while double-blind studies extend this to researchers as well.

Case Study: A case study delves deeply into a single subject, such as a specific individual, event, or situation.

Control Group: In experimental research, a control group serves as a benchmark. Participants in this group do not receive the experimental treatment or intervention. Comparing the outcomes for both groups helps to remove inaccuracies introduced by the placebo effect or other factors aside from the thing being studied.

Descriptive Statistics: Methods used to summarize and simplify data, such as percentages, frequencies, and averages

Data Collection: Gathering information for research through surveys, interviews, observations, or experiments

Dependent Variable: The variable in an experiment that's expected to change as another variable is intentionally altered

Ethics: Principles that guide research conduct, emphasizing integrity, respect for participants, and minimizing harm

External Validity: The extent to which a study's results can be applied to other populations or settings

Hypothesis: A statement about the relationship between variables that can be tested through scientific research

Independent Variable: A variable that is manipulated or controlled by researchers during a study

Literature Review: A piece of text that surveys existing research relevant to a specific topic and combines the results, analyzing published studies to identify gaps, trends, and areas that merit further investigation

Meta-Analysis: A combination of results from multiple studies addressing the same research question

Peer Review: When a group of experts evaluate a research article or proposal to assess its quality, validity, and significance. Rigorous peer review ensures the integrity and reliability of scientific knowledge.

Pilot Study: A small-scale preliminary study that tests out the methodology of the study and its feasibility before a larger study is conducted

Qualitative Research: Research that focuses on understanding phenomena through detailed descriptions, observations, and interpretations. To conduct this type of research, experts use methods like interviews, focus groups, and content analysis. Qualitative research provides rich insights into complex human experiences.

Quantitative Research: Research that involves collecting and analyzing numerical data. Some of the most common quantitative approaches are surveys, experiments, and observational studies.

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