Empirical Research Terms

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data
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forms of empirical evidence carefully gathered according to rules or established procedures
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empirical
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evidence/observations grounded in human sensory experience
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false consensus
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we tend to see the views of others as being similar to our own views (‘everyone thinks like me’)
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halo effect
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knowledge-bias based on reputation of people or events instead of evaluating the people/events in neutral way
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innumeracy
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The lack of quantitative literacy; not having an ability to reason with numbers and other mathematical concepts
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junk science
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A public relations term used to criticize scientific research even if it is conducted properly that produces findings that an advocacy group opposes
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overgeneralization
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belief that available evidence applies to other situations as well
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premature closure
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we feel we have an answer and thus refuse to listen to more evidence
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pseudoscience
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A body of ideas or information clothed in the jargon and outward appearance of science seeking to win acceptance
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scholarly journal article
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Article in a specialized publication, primary audience: members of the scientific community; a means to disseminate new ideas and findings within the scientific community; part of formal communication
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scientific community
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A collection of people sharing a system of attitudes, beliefs and rules that sustains the production and advance of scientific knowledge
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scientific literacy
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capacity to understand and apply scientific knowledge, concepts, principles and theories to solve problems and make decisions based on scientific reasoning
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selective observation
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generalizations based on observations of certain people/events
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social theory
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a coherent system of logically consistent and interconnected ideas used to condense and organize knowledge
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universalism
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judged only by scientific merit and not by researcher’s affiliations
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organized skepticism
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challenge all questions and evidence, be critical of own results
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disinterestedness
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neutral and open to unexpected observations and new ideas
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communalism
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scientific knowledge must be shared with others
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honesty
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is demanded in all research, dishonesty or cheating (e.g. fabrication of data or plagiarism) is a major taboo, is not tolerated and sanctioned
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quantitative
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Objective observations, focus on variables, statistics
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qualitative
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Construction of social reality, cultural meaning, focus on events
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basic research
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Designed to advance fundamental knowledge about how the world works; Build and test theoretical explanations by focusing on the \”why\” question
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applied research
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Designed to offer practical solutions to a concrete (social) problem
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exploratory research
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Research on a very new topic; primary purpose is to examine a little understood issues/phenomenon and to develop preliminary ideas about it and move toward refined research questions
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descriptive research
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Describe how things are (specific situation, social setting, relationship)
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explanatory research
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Aims to identify the reasons why something occurs, explain cause-effect relationships
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instrumental research
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Knowledge narrowly focused to answer a basic or applied research question, issue, or concern with an outcome or task-oriented orientation; Advances the frontiers of understanding
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reflexive knowledge
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Knowledge used to broadly examine the assumptions, context, and moral-value positions of basic or applied social research, including the research process itself and the implications of what is learned; What are the implications of reflexive knowledge for moral principles, such as justice, truth, fairness, freedom or equality?
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needs assessment
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An applied research tool that gathers descriptive information about a need, issue, or concern
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cost-benefit analysis
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An applied research tool economists developed in which monetary value is assigned to the inputs and outcomes of a process and then the researcher examines the balance between them
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case study
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Research that is an in-depth examination of extensive amount of information about very few units or cases for one period or across multiple periods of time
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cross-sectional
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Any research that examines information on many cases at one point in time
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time-series
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Longitudinal research in which information can be about different cases or people in each of several time periods
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panel study
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Longitudinal research in which information is about identical cases or people in each of several time points; Data collected from SAME cases at different points in time to reveal trends
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cohort study
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Longitudinal research that traces information about a category of cases or people who shared a common experience at one time period across subsequent time periods; Data collected from a category (group) of cases (usually not all cases participate each time) at different points in time to reveal trends
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parsimony
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The idea that simple is better, social theory that explains more with less complexity is better
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ideology
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A nonscientific quasi-theory, often based on political values or faith (with assumptions, concepts, relationships among concepts); closed system, resistance to change, no direct falsification with empirical data, normative claims
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assumption
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An untested starting point or belief in a theory
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theoretical concept
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A thought-through idea that is carefully defined and made explicit in a theory
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level of abstraction
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A characteristic of a concept that ranges from empirical and concrete (e.g. height) to very abstract , unseen mental creations (e.g. loneliness)
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proposition
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A theoretical statement about a relationship between two or more concepts
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hypothesis
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An empirical testable version of a theoretical proposition; used in deductive theorizing
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units of analysis
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The units, cases, or parts of social life that are under consideration; e.g. individual level, group level, organizational level, country level
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deductive direction
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theory-confirming approach, starts with abstract ideas and works towards more concrete empirical evidence
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inductive direction
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Starts with concrete empirical evidence and works towards more abstract concepts and theoretical relationships
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causal explanation
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An explanation of events in terms of cause and effect. Temporal order.
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association
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Co-occurrence of two events, does NOT imply causality. When one event happens or present, the other one is likely to happen or be present as well.
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causal mechanism
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The part of a causal explanation specifying the process by which the primary IV influences the primary DV
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positivist social science
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to discover laws; value-free and objective as with natural sciences
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interpretive social science
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to understand social meaning in context; relativistic regarding value positions
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critical social science
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to reveal what is hidden and empower people; containing a moral-political dimension
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praxis
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A way to evaluate explanations in critical social science by putting theoretical explanations into real-life practice, subsequent outcome is used to refine explanation
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verstehen
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Empathetic (deep) understanding with shared meaning; primary goal for social research according to interpretive social science
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hermeneutics
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Method associated with interpretative social science that originates in religious and literary studies of textual material, revealing deep meaning
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postmodern research
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Criticizes positivism and builds on interpretive and critical social sciences; deconstruction of the observable to reveal the hidden structure
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feminist research
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Criticizes positivism and builds on interpretive and critical social sciences; an approach to social science that is concerned with gender as an important factor in any critical inquiry and formation of knowledge
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informed consent
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Written contract between the researcher and the study participant regarding the details of the study, given before the study begins, if signed the participant agrees to voluntarily take part in the study
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anonymity
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From researcher – Ethical protection that participants remain nameless; their identity is protected from disclosure and remains unknown
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confidentiality
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From public – Means that information may be attached to names, but this information will be held in confidence or it is kept secret from the public; researchers do this by reporting data in aggregated form (e.g. %, means)
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triangulation
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Mixing approaches has advantages, but adds complexity and needs more time; builds on the principle that multiple perspectives are better than a single perspective
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grounded theory
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Qualitative research: theory development during data collection process and is grounded in the data; Context is critical
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bricolage
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working with various materials to achieve end goal
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interpretation
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understanding of data from multiple points of view: First-order interpretation: view of the participants; Second-order interpretation: view of the researcher; Third-order interpretation: view of the audience
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variable
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a concept or its empirical measure that can take on multiple values
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attributes
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the categories or levels of a variable
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independent variable
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a variable that produces an effect or result on a dependent variable; also called a predictor; maybe controlled by the researcher, if used in experimental designs
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dependent variable
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outcome variable; variable of interest, result is caused (predicted ) by the IV
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(causal) hypothesis
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a statement that includes a proposition about the direction of a relationship between an IV and a DV that has to be empirically tested
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ecological fallacy
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A fallacy is an error of logic usually based on mistaken assumptions. The ecological fallacy is an error of deduction that involves deriving conclusions about individuals solely on the basis of an analysis of group data.
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spuriousness
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an unseen (unmeasured) third variable is the actual cause of a relationship between IV and DV
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reliability
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Degree to which measures are free from error, is consistent and repeatable
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stability reliability
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across time; verified using test-re-test method (compare scores of the same participants on the same questionnaire multiple times)
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representative reliability
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across groups; verified using split-half method, inter-rater reliability
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equivalence reliability
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across indicators
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validity
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The ability of an instrument to measure that which you intend to measure
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face validity
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agreement that a scale accurately measures that which it is intended to; \”makes sense\” in the judgment of others
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content validity
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a measure represent all aspects of the conceptual definition of a construct
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criterion validity
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relies on some independent, outside verification (significant association with other measures assessing the same)
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construct validity
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The ability of a measure to confirm a network of related hypothesis
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continuous variables
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measured on a continuum, infinite number of finer gradations between variable attributes
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discrete variables
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limited number of distinct separate categories
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conceptualization
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Process of developing clear, rigorous, systematic conceptual definitions for abstract ideas/concepts; In other words, a process of forming concrete definitions from vague preliminary theoretical ideas
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conceptual definition
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A careful, systematic definition of a construct that is explicitly written down
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operationalization
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The process of moving from a construct’s conceptual definition to specific activities or measures that allow a researcher to observe it empirically; in other words, a process of converting a definition to a specific measure and deciding how to empirically test it
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operational definition
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A variable in terms of the specific actions to measure or indicate it in the empirical world
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universe
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The sum of elements and geographical and temporal boundaries of a study
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population
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The abstract idea of a large group of many cases from which a researcher draws a sample
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target population
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The specific collection of elements we plan to study
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sample
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A small set of cases a researchers selects from a large pool
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sampling element
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Unit of analysis or a case in a population for a specific study
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sampling frame
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A list of cases in a population, or the best approximation of them
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parameter
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A characteristic of the entire population that is estimated from the sample
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statistic
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Information in the sample that is used to estimate a parameter
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open-ended question
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Allows respondents freedom to offer any answer they wish to the question
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closed-ended question
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Respondents must choose from a fixed set of answers
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swayed opinion
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falsely over- or understating a position (similar to social desirability bias and with sensitive topics respectively)
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false positive
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selecting an attitude position but lacking knowledge
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false negative
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refusal to answer even if an answer could be given
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floaters
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respondents without the knowledge or an opinion to answer, but who answer anyway, giving inconsistent answers
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recency effect
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Respondents tend to choose the last answer response offered without seriously considering all answer choices;
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selective refusals
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Often the case with sensitive topics; Respondents refuse rather than indicate a socially inappropriate answer
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wording issues
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Wording effects (when the use of a specific term or word strongly influence how some respondents answer a survey question)
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order effects
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a topic or some questions asked before others influence respondents’ answers to later questions
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context effects
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when an overall tone, setting or set of topics heard by respondents affect how they interpret the meaning of following questions

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