abstract (1) A summary of a research article. The abstract usually begins the article and states the purpose of the research, the methods used, and the major findings. (2) An expensive painting you may not understand but may need to appreciate if you want to impress people at the art museum.
agreement reality Those things we “know” as part of the culture we share with those around us.
analysis of variance (ANOVA) Method of analysis in which cases under study are combined into groups representing an independent variable, and the extent to which the groups differ from one another is analyzed in terms of some dependent variable. Then, the extent to which the groups differ is compared with the standard of random distribution.
anonymity Anonymity is achieved in a research project when neither the researchers nor the readers of the findings can identify a given response with a given respondent.
attributes Characteristics of people or things. See also variables
average An ambiguous term generally suggesting typical or normal—a central tendency. The mean, median, and mode are specific examples of mathematical averages.
axial coding A reanalysis of the results of open coding in the Grounded Theory Method, aimed at identifying the important, general concepts. See also selective coding
bias 1) That quality of a measurement device that tends to result in a misrepresentation of what is being measured in a particular direction. For example, the questionnaire item “Don’t you agree that the president is doing a good job?” would be biased in that it would generally encourage more favorable responses. (2) The thing inside you that makes other people or groups seem consistently better or worse than they really are. (3) What a nail looks like after you hit it crooked. (If you drink, don’t drive.)
bivariate analysis The analysis of two variables simultaneously, for the purpose of determining the empirical relationship between them. The construction of a simple percentage table or the computation of a simple correlation coefficient are examples of bivariate analyses.
Bogardus social distance scale (1) A measurement technique for determining the willingness of people to participate in social relations—of varying degrees of closeness—with other kinds of people. It is an especially efficient technique in that one can summarize several discrete answers without losing any of the original details of the data. (2) The distance you might be prepared to travel to see a rarely shown black-and- white movie of good ol’ Humphrey.*
case study The in-depth examination of a single instance of some social phenomenon, such as a village, a family, or a juvenile gang.
case-oriented analysis (1) An analysis that aims to understand a particular case or several cases by looking closely at the details of each. (2) A private investigator’s billing system.
closed-ended questions Survey questions in which the respondent is asked to select an answer from among a list provided by the researcher. Popular in survey research because they provide a greater uniformity of responses and are more easily processed than open-ended questions.
cluster sampling (1) A multistage sampling in which natural groups (clusters) are sampled initially, with the members of each selected group being subsampled afterward. For example, you might select a sample of U.S. colleges and universities from a directory, get lists of the students at all the selected schools, then draw samples of students from each. (2) Pawing around in a box of macadamia nut clusters to take all the big ones for yourself.
codebook (1) The document used in data processing and analysis that tells the location of different data items in a data file. Typically, the codebook identifies the locations of data items and the meaning of the codes used to represent different attributes of variables. (2) The document that cost you 38 box tops just to learn that Captain Marvelous wanted you to brush your teeth and always tell the truth. (3) The document that allows CIA agents to learn that Captain Marvelous wants them to brush their teeth.
coding (1) The process whereby raw data are transformed into standardized form suitable for machine processing and analysis. (2) A strong drug you may take when you hab a bad code.
cohort study A study in which some specific subpopulation, or cohort, is studied over time, although data may be collected from different members in each set of observations. For example, a study of the occupational history of the class of 1970 in which questionnaires were sent every five years would be a cohort study. See also longitudinal study, panel study, and trend study.
comparative and historical research The examination of societies (or other social units) over time and in comparison with one another.
computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) A data-collection technique in which a telephone-survey questionnaire is stored in a computer, permitting the interviewer to read the questions from the monitor and enter the answers on the computer keyboard.
concept mapping (1) The graphic display of concepts and their interrelations, useful in the formulation of theory. (2) A masculine technique for finding locations by logic and will, without asking for directions.
conceptualization (1) The mental process whereby fuzzy and imprecise notions (concepts) are made more specific and precise. So you want to study prejudice. What do you mean by “prejudice”? Are there different kinds of prejudice? What are they? (2) Sexual reproduction among intellectuals.
confidence interval (1) The range of values within which a population parameter is estimated to lie. A survey, for example, may show 40 percent of a sample favoring Candidate A (poor devil). Although the best estimate of the support existing among all voters would also be 40 percent, we would not expect it to be exactly that. We might, therefore, compute a confidence interval (such as from 35 to 45 percent) within which the actual percentage of the population probably lies. Note that we must specify a confidence level in connection with every confidence interval. (2) How close you dare to get to an alligator.
confidence level (1) The estimated probability that a population parameter lies within a given confidence interval. Thus, we might be 95 percent confident that between 35 and 45 percent of all voters favor Candidate A. (2) How sure you are that the ring you bought from a street vendor for $10 is really a three-carat diamond.
confidentiality A research project guarantees confidentiality when the researcher can identify a given person’s responses but promises not to do so publicly.
conflict paradigm A paradigm that views human behavior as attempts to dominate others or avoid being dominated by others.
constant comparative method (1) A component of the Grounded Theory Method in which observations are compared with one another and with the evolving inductive theory. (2) A blind-dating technique.
construct validity The degree to which a measure relates to other variables as expected within a system of theoretical relationships.
content analysis The study of recorded human communications, such as books, websites, paintings, and laws.
content validity The degree to which a measure covers the range of meanings included within a concept.
contingency question A survey question intended for only some respondents, determined by their responses to some other question. For example, all respondents might be asked whether they belong to the Cosa Nostra, and only those who said yes would be asked how often they go to company meetings and picnics. The latter would be a contingency question.
contingency table (1) A format for presenting the relationships among variables as percentage distributions. (2) The card table you keep around in case your guests bring their seven kids with them to dinner.
continuous variable A variable whose attributes form a steady progression, such as age or income. Thus, the ages of a group of people might include 21, 22, 23, 24, and so forth and could even be broken down into fractions of years. Contrast this with discrete variables, such as gender or religious affiliation, whose attributes form discontinuous chunks.
control group (1) In experimentation, a group of subjects to whom no experimental stimulus is administered and who should resemble the experimental group in all other respects. The comparison of the control group and the experimental group at the end of the experiment points to the effect of the experimental stimulus. (2) American Association of Managers.
conversation analysis (CA) A meticulous analysis of the details of conversation, based on a complete transcript that includes pauses, hems, and also haws.
correlation (1) An empirical relationship between two variables such that (a) changes in one are associated with changes in the other or (b) particular attributes of one variable are associated with particular attributes of the other. Thus, for example, we say that education and income are correlated in that higher levels of education are associated with higher levels of income. Correlation in and of itself does not constitute a causal relationship between the two variables, but it is one criterion of causality. (2) Someone you and your friend are both related to.
cost-benefit studies Studies that determine whether the results of a program can be justified by its expense (both financial and other).
criterion-related validity The degree to which a measure relates to some external criterion. For example, the validity of College Board tests is shown in their ability to predict the college success of students. Also called predictive validity.
critical race theory A paradigm grounded in race awareness and an intention to achieve racial justice.
critical realism A paradigm that holds things are real insofar as they produce effects.
cross-case analysis An analysis that involves an examination of more than one case; this can be either a variable-oriented or case-oriented analysis.
cross-sectional study A study based on observations representing a single point in time. Contrasted with a longitudinal study.
curvilinear regression analysis A form of regression analysis that allows relationships among variables to be expressed with curved geometric lines instead of straight ones.
debriefing (1) Interviewing subjects to learn about their experience of participation in the project. Especially important if there’s a possibility that they have been damaged by that participation. (2) Pulling someone’s shorts down. Don’t do that. It’s not nice.
deduction The logical model in which specific expectations of hypotheses are developed on the basis of general principles. Starting from the general principle that all deans are meanies, you might anticipate that this one won’t let you change courses. This anticipation would be the result of deduction. See also induction. (2) What the Internal Revenue Service said your good-for-nothing moocher of a brother-in-law technically isn’t. (3) Of a duck.
dependent variable (1) A variable assumed to depend on or be caused by another (called the independent variable). If you find that income is partly a function of amount of formal education, income is being treated as a dependent variable. (2) A wimpy variable.
descriptive statistics Statistical computations describing either the characteristics of a sample or the relationship among variables in a sample. Descriptive statistics merely summarize a set of sample observations, whereas inferential statistics move beyond the description of specific observations to make inferences about the larger population from which the sample observations were drawn.
dimension A specifiable aspect of a concept. “Religiosity,” for example, might be specified in terms of a belief dimension, a ritual dimension, a devotional dimension, a knowledge dimension, and so forth.
discrete variable (1) A variable whose attributes are separate from one another, or discontinuous, as in the case of gender or religious affiliation. Contrast this with continuous variables, in which one attribute shades off into the next. Thus, in age (a continuous variable), the attributes progress steadily from 21 to 22 to 23, and so forth, whereas there is no progression from male to female in the case of gender. (2) A variable that doesn’t undress in public.*
discriminant analysis Method of analysis similar to multiple regression, except that the dependent variable can be nominal.
dispersion The distribution of values around some central value, such as an average. The range is a simple example of a measure of dispersion. Thus, we may report that the mean age of a group is 37.9, and the range is from 12 to 89.
distorter variable In the elaboration model, a test variable that reverses the direction of a zero-order relationship.
double-blind experiment An experimental design in which neither the subjects nor the experimenters know which is the experimental group and which is the control.
ecological fallacy Erroneously drawing conclusions about individuals solely from the observation of groups.
elaboration model A logical model for understanding the relationship between two variables by controlling for the effects of a third. Developed principally by Paul Lazarsfeld. The various outcomes of an elaboration analysis are replication, specification, explanation, and interpretation.
element (1) That unit of which a population is composed and which is selected in a sample. Distinguished from units of analysis, which are used in data analysis. (2) What an elephant eats when it has bad breath.*
emancipatory research Research conducted for the purpose of benefiting disadvantaged groups.
epistemology The science of knowing; systems of knowledge.
EPSEM (equal probability of selection method) A sample design in which each member of a population has the same chance of being selected into the sample.
ethnography A report on social life that focuses on detailed and accurate description rather than explanation.
ethnomethodology An approach to the study of social life that focuses on the discovery of implicit, usually unspoken assumptions and agreements; this method often involves the intentional breaking of agreements as a way of revealing their existence.
evaluation research Research undertaken for the purpose of determining the impact of some social intervention, such as a program aimed at solving a social problem.
ex post facto hypothesis A hypothesis created after confirming data have already been collected. It is a meaningless construct because there is no way for it to be disconfirmed.
experimental group In experimentation, a group of subjects to whom an experimental stimulus is administered. Compare with control group.
explanation (1) An elaboration model outcome in which the original relationship between two variables is revealed to have been spurious, because the relationship disappears when an antecedent test variable is introduced. (2) “My little sister ate my homework.”
extended case method A technique developed by Michael Burawoy in which case study observations are used to discover flaws in and to improve existing ocial theories.
external invalidity Refers to the possibility that conclusions drawn from experimental results may not be generalizable to the “real” world. See internal invalidity.
external validation The process of testing the validity of a measure, such as an index or scale, by examining its relationship to other, presumed indicators of the same variable. If the index really measures prejudice, for example, it should correlate with other indicators of prejudice.
face validity (1) That quality of an indicator that makes it seem a reasonable measure of some variable. That the frequency of attendance at religious services is some indication of a person’s religiosity seems to make sense without a lot of explanation. It has face validity. (2) When your face looks like your driver’s license photo (rare and perhaps unfortunate).
factor analysis A complex algebraic method for determining the general dimensions or factors that exist within a set of concrete observations.
feminist paradigms Paradigms that (a) view and understand society through the experiences of women and/or (b) examine the generally deprived status of women in society.
focus group A group of subjects interviewed together, prompting a discussion. The technique is frequently used by market researchers, who ask a group of consumers to evaluate a product or discuss a type of commodity, for example.
frequency distribution (1) A description of the number of times the various attributes of a variable are observed in a sample. The report that 53 percent of a sample were men and 47 percent were women would be a simple example of a frequency distribution. (2) A radio dial.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Analytic technique in which researchers map quantitative data that describe geographic units for a graphic display.
grounded theory (1) An inductive approach to the study of social life that attempts to generate a theory from the constant comparing of unfolding observations. This is very different from hypothesis testing, in which theory is used to generate hypotheses to be tested through observations.. (2) A theory that is not allowed to fly.
Grounded Theory Method (GTM) An inductive approach to research, introduced by Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss, in which theories are generated solely from an examination of data rather than being derived deductively.
Guttman scale (1) A type of composite measure used to summarize several discrete observations and to represent some more-general variable. (2) The device Louis Guttman weighs himself on.
hypothesis A specified testable expectation about empirical reality that follows from a more general proposition; more generally, an expectation about the nature of things derived from a theory. It is a statement of something that ought to be observed in the real world if the theory is correct. See deduction
idiographic An approach to explanation in which we seek to exhaust the idiosyncratic causes of a particular condition or event. Imagine trying to list all the reasons why you chose to attend your particular college. Given all those reasons, it’s difficult to imagine your making any other choice. By contrast, see nomothetic.
idiographic Concerned with the individual, pertaining to or descriptive of single and unique facts and processes (Oxford English Dictionary)
independent variable (1) A variable with values that are not problematic in an analysis but are taken as simply given. An independent variable is presumed to cause or determine a dependent variable. If we discover that religiosity is partly a function of gender—women are more religious than are men—gender is the independent variable and religiosity is the dependent variable. Note that any given variable might be treated as independent in one part of an analysis and dependent in another part of it. Religiosity might become an independent variable in the explanation of crime. See dependent variable. (2) A variable that refuses to take advice.
index A type of composite measure that summarizes and rank-orders several specific observations and represents some more general dimension. Contrasted with scale.
indicator An observation that we choose to consider as a reflection of a variable we wish to study. Thus, for example, attending religious services might be considered an indicator of religiosity.
induction (1) The logical model in which general principles are developed from specific observations. Having noted that Jews and Catholics are more likely to vote Democratic than Protestants are, you might conclude that religious minorities in the United States are more affiliated with the Democratic party and then your task is to explain why. This would be an example of induction. See also deduction. (2) The culinary art of stuffing ducks.
inferential statistics The body of statistical computations relevant to making inferences from findings based on sample observations to some larger population. See also descriptive statistics. (Not to be confused with infernal statistics, a characterization sometimes invoked by frustrated statistics students.)
informant Someone who is well versed in the social phenomenon that you wish to study and who is willing to tell you what he or she knows about it. If you were planning participant observation among the members of a religious sect, you would do well to make friends with someone who already knows about them—possibly a member of the sect—who could give you some background information about them. Not to be confused with a respondent.
informed consent A norm in which subjects base their voluntary participation in research projects on a full understanding of the possible risks involved.
institutional ethnography A research technique in which the personal experiences of individuals are used to reveal power relationships and other characteristics of the institutions within which they operate.
interest convergence The thesis that majority group members will only support the interests of minorities when those actions also support the interests of the majority group.
internal invalidity (1) Refers to the possibility that the conclusions drawn from experimental results may not accurately reflect what went on in the experiment itself. See also external invalidity. (2) What my grandad has and why he wears special “nappies.”*
interpretation A technical term used in connection with the elaboration model. It represents the research outcome in which a control variable is discovered to be the mediating factor through which an independent variable has its effect on a dependent variable.
interval measure A level of measurement describing a variable whose attributes are rank-ordered and have equal distances between adjacent attributes. The Fahrenheit temperature scale is an example of this, because the distance between 17 and 18 is the same as that between 89 and 90. See also nominal measure, ordinal measure, and ratio measure.
interview A data-collection encounter in which one person (an interviewer) asks questions of another (a respondent). Interviews may be conducted face-to-face or by telephone.
item analysis An assessment of whether each of the items included in a composite measure makes an independent contribution or merely duplicates the contribution of other items in the measure.
latent content (1) In connection with content analysis, the underlying meaning of communications, as distinguished from their manifest content. (2) What you need to make a latent.
level of significance (1) In the context of tests of statistical significance, the degree of likelihood that an observed, empirical relationship could be attributable to sampling error. A relationship is significant at the .05 level if the likelihood of its being only a function of sampling error is no greater than 5 out of 100. (2) Height limits on outdoor advertising.
Likert scale A type of composite measure developed by Rensis Likert, in an attempt to improve the levels of measurement in social research through the use of standardized response categories in survey questionnaires, to determine the relative intensity of different items. Likert items are those using such response categories as strongly agree, agree, disagree, and strongly disagree. Such items may be used in the construction of true Likert scales as well as other types of composite measures.
linear regression analysis A form of statistical analysis that seeks the equation for the straight line that best describes the relationship between two ratio variables.
log-linear models Data-analysis technique based on specifying models that describe the interrelationships among variables and then comparing expected and observed table-cell frequencies.
longitudinal study A study design involving the collection of data at different points in time, as contrasted with a cross-sectional study. See also cohort study, panel study, and trend study.
macrotheory A theory aimed at understanding the “big picture” of institutions, whole societies, and the interactions among societies. Karl Marx’s examination of the class struggle is an example of macrotheory. By contrast, see microtheory.
manifest content (1) In connection with content analysis, the concrete terms contained in a communication, as distinguished from latent content. (2) What you have after a manifest bursts.
matching In connection with experiments, the procedure whereby pairs of subjects are matched on the basis of their similarities on one or more variables, and one member of the pair is assigned to the experimental group and the other to the control group.
mean (1) An average computed by summing the values of several observations and dividing by the number of observations. If you now have a grade point average of 4.0 based on 10 courses, and you get an F in this course, your new grade point (mean) average will be 3.6. (2) The quality of the thoughts you might have if your instructor did that to you.
median (1) An average representing the value of the “middle” case in a rank-ordered set of observations. If the ages of five men are 16, 17, 20, 54, and 88, the median would be 20. (The mean would be 39.) (2) The dividing line between safe driving and exciting driving.
memoing Writing memos that become part of the data for analysis in qualitative research such as grounded theory. Memos can describe and define concepts, deal with methodological issues, or offer initial theoretical formulations.
metatheory A theory concerned with the investigation, analys1s, or description of theory itself. (Webster's Unabridged Dictionary)
methodology The science of finding out; procedures for scientific investigation.
microtheory A theory aimed at understanding social life at the intimate level of individuals and their interactions. Examining how the play behavior of girls differs from that of boys would be an example of microtheory. By contrast, see macrotheory.
mode (1) An average representing the most frequently observed value or attribute. If a sample contains 1,000 Protestants, 275 Catholics, and 33 Jews, Protestant is the modal category. (2) Better than apple pie a la median.
model A tentative ideational structure used as a testing device (American Heritage Dictionary, 1969). (See also Lave & March, 1971.)
monitoring studies Studies that provide a steady flow of information about something of interest, such as crime rates or the outbreak of an epidemic.
multiple regression analysis A form of statistical analysis that seeks the equation representing the impact of two or more independent variables on a single dependent variable.
multiple time-series designs The use of more than one set of data that were collected over time, as in accident rates over time in several states or cities, so that comparisons can be made.
multivariate analysis The analysis of the simultaneous relationships among several variables. Examining simultaneously the effects of age, gender, and social class on religiosity would be an example of multivariate analysis.
naturalism An approach to field research based on the assumption that an objective social reality exists and can be observed and reported accurately.
needs assessment studies Studies that aim to determine the existence and extent of problems, typically among a segment of the population, such as the elderly.
nominal measure A variable whose attributes have only the characteristics of exhaustiveness and mutual exclusiveness. In other words, a level of measurement describing a variable that has attributes that are merely different, as distinguished from ordinal, interval, or ratio measures. Gender is an example of a nominal measure.
nomothetic An approach to explanation in which we seek to identify a few causal factors that generally impact a class of conditions or events. Imagine the two or three key factors that determine which colleges students choose—proximity, reputation, and so forth. By contrast, see idiographic.
nomothetic Relating to or concerned with the study or discovery of the general laws underlying something (Oxford English Dictionary)
nonequivalent control group A control group that is similar to the experimental group but is not created by the random assignment of subjects. This sort of control group differs significantly from the experimental group in terms of the dependent variable or variables related to it.
nonprobability sampling Any technique in which samples are selected in some way not suggested by probability theory. Examples include reliance on available subjects as well as purposive (judgmental), quota, and snowball sampling.
nonsampling error (1) Those imperfections of data quality that are a result of factors other than sampling error. Examples include misunderstandings of questions by respondents, erroneous recordings by interviewers and coders, and keypunch errors. (2) The mistake you made in deciding to interview everyone rather than selecting a sample.
null hypothesis (1) In connection with hypothesis testing and tests of statistical significance, that hypothesis that suggests there is no relationship among the variables under study. You may conclude that the variables are related after having statistically rejected the null hypothesis. (2) An expectation about nulls.
odds ratio A statistical technique for expressing the relationship between variables by comparing the odds of different occurances.
open coding The initial classification and labeling of concepts in qualitative data analysis. In open coding, the codes are suggested by the researchers’ examination and questioning of the data.
open-ended questions Questions for which the respondent is asked to provide his or her own answers. In-depth, qualitative interviewing relies almost exclusively on open-ended questions.
operational definition The concrete and specific definition of something in terms of the operations by which observations are to be categorized. The operational definition of “earning an A in this course” might be “correctly answering at least 90 percent of the final exam questions.”
operationalization (1) One step beyond conceptualization. Operationalization is the process of developing operational definitions, or specifying the exact operations involved in measuring a variable. (2) Surgery on intellectuals.
ordinal measure A level of measurement describing a variable with attributes we can rank-order along some dimension. An example is socioeconomic status as composed of the attributes high, medium, low. See also interval measure, nominal measure, and ratio measure.
panel study A type of longitudinal study, in which data are collected from the same set of people (the sample or panel) at several points in time. See also and cohort, longitudinal, and trend study.
paradigm (1) A model or frame of reference through which to observe and understand. (2) (pl.) $0.20.
parameter The summary description of a given variable in a population.
partial regression analysis (1) A form of regression analysis in which the effects of one or more variables are held constant, similar to the logic of the elaboration model. (2) A regression analysis you didn’t have time to finish.
partial relationship (1) In the elaboration model, this is the relationship between two variables when examined in a subset of cases defined by a third variable. Beginning with a zero-order relationship between political party and attitudes toward abortion, for example, we might want to see whether the relationship held true among both men and women (i.e., controlling for gender). The relationship found among men and the relationship found among women would be the partial relationships, sometimes simply called the partials. (2) Someone you would take to the opera but not to mud wrestling.
participatory action research (PAR) An approach to social research in which the people being studied are given control over the purpose and procedures of the research; intended as a counter to the implicit view that researchers are superior to those they study.
path analysis (1) A form of multivariate analysis in which the causal relationships among variables are presented in a graphic format. (2) Watching your step along a horse trail.
plagiarism Presenting someone else’s words or thoughts as though they were your own, constituting intellectual theft.
population The theoretically specified aggregation of the elements in a study.
positivism Introduced by August Comte, this philosophical system is grounded on the rational proof/disproof of scientific assertions; assumes a knowable, objective reality.
postmodernism A paradigm that questions the assumptions of positivism and theories describing an “objective” reality.
posttesting (1) The remeasurement of a dependent variable among subjects after they’ve been exposed to an independent variable. (2) What my younger sister did when she was learning to drive.*
PPS (probability proportionate to size) (1) This refers to a type of multistage cluster sample in which clusters are selected, not with equal probabilities (see EPSEM) but with probabilities proportionate to their sizes—as measured by the number of units to be subsampled. (2) The odds on who gets to go first: you or the 275-pound fullback.
predictive validity see criterion-related validity
pretesting The measurement of a dependent variable among subjects.
probability sampling The general term for samples selected in accord with probability theory, typically involving some random-selection mechanism. Specific types of probability sampling include EPSEM, PPS, simple random sampling, and systematic sampling.
probe A technique employed in interviewing to solicit a more complete answer to a question. It is a nondirective phrase or question used to encourage a respondent to elaborate on an answer. Examples include “Anything more?” and “How is that?”
program evaluation/outcome assessment The determination of whether a social intervention is producing the intended result.
proportionate reduction of error (PRE) A logical model for assessing the strength of a relationship by asking how much knowing values on one variable would reduce our errors in guessing values on the other. For example, if we know how much education people have, we can improve our ability to estimate how much they earn, thus indicating there is a relationship between the two variables.
purposive (judgmental) sampling A type of nonprobability sampling in which the units to be observed are selected on the basis of the researcher’s judgment about which ones will be the most useful or representative.
qualitative analysis (1) The nonnumerical examination and interpretation of observations, for the purpose of discovering underlying meanings and patterns of relationships. This is most typical of field research and historical research. (2) A classy analysis.
qualitative interview Contrasted with survey interviewing, the qualitative interview is based on a set of topics to be discussed in depth rather than based on the use of standardized questions.
quantitative analysis (1) The numerical representation and manipulation of observations for the purpose of describing and explaining the phenomena that those observations reflect. (2) A BIG analysis.
quasi experiments Nonrigorous inquiries somewhat resembling controlled experiments but lacking key elements such as pre- and posttesting and/or control groups.
questionnaire A document containing questions and other types of items designed to solicit information appropriate for analysis. Questionnaires are used primarily in survey research but also in experiments, field research, and other modes of observation.
quota sampling A type of nonprobability sampling in which units are selected into a sample on the basis of prespecified characteristics, so that the total sample will have the same distribution of characteristics assumed to exist in the population being studied.
random selection A sampling method in which each element has an equal chance of selection independent of any other event in the selection process.
random-digit dialing (RDD) A sampling technique in which random numbers are selected from within the ranges of numbers assigned to active telephones.
randomization A technique for assigning experimental subjects to experimental and control groups randomly.
rapport An open and trusting relationship; especially important in qualitative research between researchers and the people they’re observing.
ratio measure A level of measurement describing a variable with attributes that have all the qualities of nominal, ordinal, and interval measures and in addition are based on a “true zero” point. Age is an example of a ratio measure. See also nominal measure, interval measure, and ordinal measure.
reactivity The problem that the subjects of social research may react to the fact of being studied, thus altering their behavior from what it would have been normally.
reductionism (1) A fault of some researchers: a strict limitation (reduction) of the kinds of concepts to be considered relevant to the phenomenon under study. (2) The cloning of ducks.
regression analysis (1) A method of data analysis in which the relationships among variables are represented in the form of an equation, called a regression equation. (2) What seems to happen to your knowledge of social research methods just before an exam.
reliability (1) That quality of measurement method that suggests that the same data would have been collected each time in repeated observations of the same phenomenon. In the context of a survey, we would expect that the question “Did you attend religious services last week?” would have higher reliability than the question “About how many times have you attended religious services in your life?” This is not to be confused with validity. (2) Quality of repeatability in untruths.
replication Repeating a research study to test and either confirm or question the findings of an earlier study.
replication A technical term used in connection with the elaboration model, referring to the elaboration outcome in which the initially observed relationship between two variables persists when a control variable is held constant, thereby supporting the idea that the original relationship is genuine.
representativeness (1) That quality of a sample of having the same distribution of characteristics as the population from which it was selected. By implication, descriptions and explanations derived from an analysis of the sample may be assumed to represent similar ones in the population. Representativeness is enhanced by probability sampling and provides for generalizability and the use of inferential statistics. (2) A noticeable quality in the presentation-of-self of some members of the U.S. Congress.
research monograph A book-length research report, either published or unpublished. This is distinguished from a textbook, a book of essays, a novel, and so forth.
respondent A person who provides data for analysis by responding to a survey questionnaire.
response rate The number of people participating in a survey divided by the number selected in the sample, in the form of a percentage. This is also called the completion rate or, in self-administered surveys, the return rate: the percentage of questionnaires sent out that are returned.
sampling error The degree of error to be expected by virtue of studying a sample instead of everyone. For probability sampling, the maximum error depends on three factors: the sample size, the diversity of the population, and the confidence level.
sampling frame That list or quasi list of units composing a population from which a sample is selected. If the sample is to be representative of the population, it is essential that the sampling frame include all (or nearly all) members of the population.
sampling interval The standard distance between elements selected from a population for a sample.
sampling ratio The proportion of elements in the population that are selected to be in a sample.
sampling unit That element or set of elements considered for selection in some stage of sampling.
scale (1) A type of composite measure composed of several items that have a logical or empirical structure among them. Examples of scales include Bogardus social distance, Guttman, Likert, and Thurstone scales. Contrasted with index. (2) One of the less-appetizing parts of a fish.
secondary analysis (1) A form of research in which the data collected and processed by one researcher are reanalyzed—often for a different purpose—by another. This is especially appropriate in the case of survey data. Data archives are repositories or libraries for the storage and distribution of data for secondary analysis . (2) Estimating the weight and speed of an opposing team’s linebackers.
selective coding In Grounded Method Theory, this analysis builds on the results of open coding and axial coding to identify the central concept that organizes the other concepts that have been identified in a body of textual materials. See also axial coding
semantic differential A questionnaire format in which the respondent is asked to rate something in terms of two, opposite adjectives (e.g., rate textbooks as “boring” or “exciting”), using qualifiers such as “very,” “somewhat,” “neither,” “somewhat,” and “very” to bridge the distance between the two opposites.
semiotics (1) The study of signs and the meanings associated with them. This is commonly associated with content analysis. (2) Antibiotics that only work half of the time.*
simple random sampling (SRS) (1) A type of probability sampling in which the units composing a population are assigned numbers. A set of random numbers is then generated, and the units having those numbers are included in the sample. Although probability theory and the calculations it provides assume this basic sampling method, it’s seldom used, for practical reasons. An equivalent alternative is the systematic sample (with a random start). (2) A random sample with a low IQ.
snowball sampling (1) A nonprobability sampling method, often employed in field research, whereby each person interviewed may be asked to suggest additional people for interviewing. (2) Picking the icy ones to throw at your methods instructor.
social artifact Any product of social beings or their behavior. Can be a unit of analysis.
social indicators Measurements that reflect the quality or nature of social life, such as crime rates, infant mortality rates, number of physicians per 100,000 population, and so forth. Social indicators are often monitored to determine the nature of social change in a society.
sociobiology A paradigm based in the view that social behavior can be explained solely in terms of genetic characteristics and behavior.
specification (1) The process through which concepts are made more specific.
specification (2) A technical term used in connection with the elaboration model, representing the elaboration outcome in which an initially observed relationship between two variables is replicated among some subgroups created by the control variable but not among others. In such a situation, you will have specified the conditions under which the original relationship exists: for example, among men but not among women.
spurious relationship (1) A coincidental statistical correlation between two variables, shown to be caused by some third variable. For example, there is a positive relationship between the number of fire trucks responding to a fire and the amount of damage done: the more trucks, the more damage. The third variable is the size of the fire. They send lots of fire trucks to a large fire and a lot of damage is done because of the size of the fire. For a little fire, they just send a little fire truck, and not much damage is done because it’s a small fire. Sending more fire trucks does not cause more damage. For a given size of fire, in fact, sending more trucks would reduce the amount of damage. (2) You thought you were going steady but that ®#&®#& thought you were “just friends.”
standard deviation (1) A measure of dispersion around the mean, calculated so that approximately 68 percent of the cases will lie within plus or minus one standard deviation from the mean, 95 percent will lie within plus or minus two standard deviations, and 99.9 percent will lie within three standard deviations. Thus, for example, if the mean age in a group is 30 and the standard deviation is 10, then 68 percent have ages between 20 and 40. The smaller the standard deviation, the more tightly the values are clustered around the mean; if the standard deviation is high, the values are widely spread out. (2) Routine rule-breaking.
statistic The summary description of a variable in a sample, used to estimate a population parameter.
statistical significance (1) A general term referring to the likelihood that relationships observed in a sample could be attributed to sampling error alone. See tests of statistical significance (2) How important it would really be if you flunked your statistics exam. I mean, you could always be a poet.
stratification The grouping of the units composing a population into homogeneous groups (or strata) before sampling. This procedure, which may be used in conjunction with simple random, systematic, or cluster sampling, improves the representativeness of a sample, at least in terms of the stratification variables.
structural functionalism A paradigm that divides social phenomena into parts, each of which serves a function for the operation of the whole.
study population That aggregation of elements from which a sample is actually selected.
suppressor variable In the elaboration model, a test variable that prevents a genuine relationship from appearing at the zero-order level.
symbolic interactionism A paradigm that views human behavior as the creation of meaning through social interactions, with those meanings conditioning subsequent interactions.
systematic sampling (1) A type of probability sampling in which every kth unit in a list is selected for inclusion in the sample—for example, every 25th student in the college directory of students. You compute k by dividing the size of the population by the desired sample size; k is called the sampling interval. Within certain constraints, systematic sampling is a functional equivalent of simple random sampling and usually easier to do. Typically, the first unit is selected at random. (2) Picking every third one whether it’s icy or not. See snowball sampling (2).
test variable A variable that is held constant in an attempt to clarify further the relationship between two other variables. Having discovered a relationship between education and prejudice, for example, we might hold gender constant by examining the relationship between education and prejudice among men only and then among women only. In this example, gender would be the test variable.
tests of statistical significance (1) A class of statistical computations that indicate the likelihood that the relationship observed between variables in a sample can be attributed to sampling error only. See inferential statistics. (2) A determination of how important statistics have been in improving humankind’s lot in life. (3) An examination that can radically affect your grade in this course and your GPA as well.
theory A systematic explanation for the observations that relate to a particular aspect of life: juvenile delinquency, for example, or perhaps social stratification or political revolution.
theory (a) The body of generalizations and principles developed in association with practice in a field of activity (as medicine, music) and forming its content as an intellectual discipline .... (Webster's Unabridged Dictionary); (b) A system of assumptions, accepted principles, and rules of procedure devised to analyze, predict, or otherwise explain the nature or behavior of a specified set of phenomena. (American Heritage Dictionary, 1969). (See also Reynolds, 1971.)
Thurstone scale A type of composite measure, constructed in accord with the weights assigned by “judges” to various indicators of some variables.
time-series analysis An analysis of changes in a variable (such as crime rates) over time.
time-series design A research design that involves measurements made over some period, such as the study of traffic accident rates before and after lowering the speed limit.
tolerance for ambiguity The ability to hold conflicting ideas in you mind simultaneously, without denying or dismissing any of them.
trend study A type of longitudinal study in which a given characteristic of some population is monitored over time. An example would be the series of Gallup Polls showing the electorate’s preferences for political candidates over the course of a campaign, even though different samples were interviewed at each point. See also cohort, longitudinal, and panel study.
typology (1) The classification (typically nominal) of observations in terms of their attributes on two or more variables. The classification of newspapers as liberal-urban, liberal-rural, conservative-urban, or conservative-rural would be an example. (2) Apologizing for your neckwear.
units of analysis The what or whom being studied. In social science research, the most typical units of analysis are individual people.
univariate analysis The analysis of a single variable, for purposes of description. Frequency distributions, averages, and measures of dispersion would be examples of univariate analysis, as distinguished from bivariate and multivariate analysis.
unobtrusive research Methods of studying social behavior without affecting it. Such methods can be qualitative or quantitative.
URL (1) Web address, typically beginning with “http://”; stands for “uniform resource locator” or “universal resource locator.” (2) Phonetic spelling of “Earl.” (3) What my mum used to say to me when I sounded like I was getting a cold.*
validity A term describing a measure that accurately reflects the concept it is intended to measure. For example, your IQ would seem a more valid measure of your intelligence than the number of hours you spend in the library would. Though the ultimate validity of a measure can never be proved, we may agree to its relative validity on the basis of face validity, criterion-related validity, construct validity, content validity, internal validation, and external validation. Validity must not be confused with reliability.
variable-oriented analysis An analysis that describes and/or explains a particular variable.
variables Logical sets of attributes. The variable gender is made of up of the attributes male and female.
weighting Assigning different weights to cases that were selected into a sample with different probabilities of selection. In the simplest scenario, each case is given a weight equal to the inverse of its probability of selection. When all cases have the same chance of selection, no weighting is necessary.
zero-order relationship (1) In the elaboration model, this is the original relationship between two variables, with no test variables controlled for. (2) A blind date that just didn’t work out. Hang in there. You can always turn to social research methods.
abstract (1) A summary of a research article. The abstract usually begins the article and states the purpose of the research, the methods used, and the major findings. (2) An expensive painting you may not understand but may need to appreciate if you want to impress people at the art museum.
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