Research Terminology and Important Concepts

This is probably one of the less interesting posts. Just a blob of information. The rote memory kind of stuff. Yay! (cough)


  1. Research: the systematic gathering of information to gain, expand, or validate knowledge.
  2. Research utilization: the use of research findings in practice.
  3. Outcome evaluation: when the application of research into practice is examined to determine if it resulted in expected treatment goals.
  4. Evidence based practice: the conscientious and judicious use of the best evidence gained from systematic research for the purpose of making informed decisions about the care of individual patients.
  5. Meta-analysis: statistical analysis that combines the results of multiple scientific studies.
  6. Randomized controlled trials: A study in which people are allocated at random (by chance alone) to receive one of several clinical interventions. One of these interventions is the standard of comparison or control. The control may be a standard practice, a placebo, or no intervention at all. RCTs seek to measure and compare the outcomes after the participants receive the interventions. Because the outcomes are measured, RCTs are quantitative studies.
  7. Quasi-experimental studies: involves selecting groups, upon which a variable is tested, without any random pre-selection processes. Proceeds with a variable being compared between different groups, or over a period of time.
  8. Case control studies: compares patients who have a disease or outcome of interest (cases) with patients who do not have the disease or outcome (controls), and looks back retrospectively to compare how frequently the exposure to a risk factor is present in each group to determine the relationship between the risk factor and the disease.
  9. Cohort studies: where one or more samples (called cohorts) are followed prospectively and subsequent status evaluations with respect to a disease or outcome are conducted to determine which initial participants exposure characteristics (risk factors) are associated with it. As the study is conducted, outcome from participants in each cohort is measured and relationships with specific characteristics determined.
  10. Qualitative studies: method of investigation that includes patient interviews and detailed case studies.
  11. Anecdotal evidence: evidence based on anecdotes arising from the analysis of individual clinical cases.
  12. Anecdote: a short account of a particular incident or event, especially of an interesting or amusing nature.
  13. Applied research: scientific investigations conducted to answer specific clinical questions or solve practice-related problems.
  14. Basic research: scientific investigation that involves the generation of new knowledge or development of new theories; its results often cannot be applied directly to specific clinical situations.
  15. Correlational research: the systematic investigation of relationships among two or more variables, without necessarily determining cause and effect.
  16. Descriptive research: research that provides an accurate portrayal of characteristics of a particular individual, situation,or group. These studies are a means of discovering new meaning, describing what exists, determining the frequency with which something occurs, and categorizing information.
  17. Ethnographic research: the investigation of a culture through an in-depth study of the members of the culture; it involves the systematic collection, description, and analysis of data for development of theories of cultural behavior.
  18. Experimental research: objective, systematic, controlled investigation for the purpose of predicting and controlling phenomena and examining probability and causality among selected variables.
  19. Exploratory research: studies that are merely formative, for the purpose of gaining new insights, discovering new ideas,and increasing knowledge of phenomena.
  20. Grounded theory research: a research approach designed to discover what problems exist in a given social environment and how the persons involved handle them; it involves formulation, testing, and reformulation of propositions until a theory is developed.
  21. Historical research: research involving analysis of events that occurred in the past.
  22. Phenomenological research: an inductive, descriptive research approach developed from phenomenological philosophy; its aim is to describe an experience as it is actually lived by the person.
  23. Quantitative research: research involving formal, objective information about the world, with mathematical quantification;it can be used to describe test relationships and to examine cause and effect relationships.
  24. Expert Opinion: a belief or judgment about something given by an expert (one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject). Must be relevant to their area of expertise to have value.
  25. Sample size: a statistical sample is the number of observations that constitute it.
  26. Generalizability: the accuracy with which results or findings can be transferred to situations or people other than those originally studied
  27. Control of variables: a person, group, event, etc., that is used as a constant and unchanging standard of comparison in scientific experimentation.
  28. Descriptive statistics: Describe the basic features of the data in the study.
  29. Dependent variable: the event studied and expected to change when the independent variable is changed.
  30. Frequency: the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit of time.
  31. Independent variable: a variable that is intentionally changed to observe its effect on the dependent variable.
  32. Inferential statistics: trying to reach conclusions that extend beyond the immediate data alone.
  33. Probability: how likely something will happen
  34. Validity: an assessment; the degree to which it measures what it is supposed to measure.
  35. Internal validity: extent to which the effects detected in a study are truly caused by the treatment or exposure in the study sample, rather than being due to other biasing effects of extraneous variables.
  36. External validity: extent to which study findings can be generalized beyond the sample used in the study.
  37. Reliability: The extent to which results are consistent over time and an accurate representation of the total population under study is referred to as reliability. If the results of a study can be reproduced under a similar methodology, then the research instrument is considered to be reliable.


  1. The best evidence hierarchy can be used to evaluate the strength or validity of research. Rated from best (highest level) to the lowest level:
    1. Meta-analysis
    2. Randomized controlled trials
    3. Quasi-experimental studies
    4. Case control studies
    5. Cohort studies
    6. Qualitative studies
  2. Anecdotes are no longer considered valid research
  3. There is always a potential for bias in research
    1. Who were the study participants? Data can not be applied to excluded groups.
    2. Were there conflicts of interest?
      1. Does the person funding the research stand to gain by certain results?
      2. Will there be a resulting career advancement from the research?
      3. Was there a publication bias?
        1. Unfavorable results not published
        2. Bar or line graphs not using equivalent doses of comparison drugs
  4. Findings, Results and Conclusions
    1. Statements derived from statistical analysis of the data. They do not prove anything. They merely offer a suggestion as to what the data might mean.


References and Further Reading

  1. Hutchinson, K., EdE, RN, PMHCNS-BC, CARN. (2015). Elements in Professionalism in Nursing Practice. In Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing (5th ed., pp. 258-271). WY: American Nurses Credentialing Center.

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Posted on May 12, 2017, in Education and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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