Terminology for Talking About Research

The following words and terms may frequently appear when studying, reading about, or discussing Research or Study. We briefly explain what they mean and give you examples to learn how to use them. Learning this subject specific terminology is a great way to improve your performance in exams such as IELTS, GRE, SAT, LSAT, Civil Services, and Banking.



A hypothesis is a proposed explanation, based on limited data or evidence which can be tested.


Statistics is the term for a collection of data containing numbers or numerical information.


An investigation or analysis of a phenomenon, topic or subject.

qualitative research

Qualitative research is research that features unstructured data, or data that is not numerical.

quantitative research 

Quantitive research is research relating to observable, statistical, mathematical or computational techniques.

clinical trial

A clinical trial is used to examine the effects of a medical, health or aesthetic change or product on a human.

literature review

A literature review summarizes previous research on a specific topic. It is used to help decide the area of research for a student.


A variable is an element of something that is likely to change or fluctuate.


A method of assigning participants to a group by chance.


The accuracy of something refers to how correct or precise it is.

Gathering data

Gathering data is the process whereby information is gathered to address a specific question or problem.


Being anonymous is the ability or requirement of not being able to be identified or associated with something.


The average is the mean of something or the total amount of something divided by the number of items.

bar chart

A bar chart is a diagram where each value is represented by rectangular horizontal or vertical shapes.


The variance of something is how far the value is from the mean or average.


A correlation is when two variables change in relationship to each other.

data analysis

Data analysis is a process of examining and arranging data to discover useful information.


Confidentiality is something kept private or secret and not shared with others.


A bias is a prejudice or favouritism shown towards one choice or group over another that can be conscious or unconscious.

primary sources

A primary source is an original source such as a diary, manuscript, document or artifact.

secondary sources

Secondary sources are books or articles written by someone not originally present or involved at the time of the event.

control group

A control group is a group in an experiment which does not receive treatment or experience the same as those being tested.


An experiment is a scientific procedure carried out in order to make a discovery or test a theory or hypothesis or to measure the effectiveness of something.

margin of error

The margin of error is a small amount taken into consideration in case of wrong calculations or changes.

field research

Field research is the method of gathering data outside of a laboratory setting.


Methodology refers to the system of methods used in an area of study.


Sampling is the procedure of taking samples of something in order to study it.

pilot study

A pilot study is usually carried out in order to evaluate procedures and feasibility of larger-scale research later on.

research method

A research method is a plan with established systems used in order to carry out research.


Subjectivity is the act of being influenced by personal feelings and opinions rather than scientific fact.


Objectivity is the act of being able to make a decision without being influenced by personal feelings, tastes or opinions.


A theory is an idea intended to explain something, or a set of ideas or principles upon which decisions are made or activities take place.


A survey is the opinions or experiences of people obtained by asking a series of questions or a general view or insight into a targeted group of people.

case study

A case study is the process of recording a particular person, situation or group over time.


Interviews are a series of questions asked to obtain specific information.


Journals are magazines and publications containing material related to a particular field of study or a specific profession.


A dissertation is an academic essay, usually written in order to obtain a degree or professional qualification.

Related Links