Research Terminology Dictionary, ED 601


Research Terminology Dictionary


  • Characteristics of Quantitative Research

O’Leary offers a tightly packed summary of the “quantitative tradition” in figure 8.1, page 121:

Paradigm/assumption: positivism, empiricism

Methodology: scientific method, hypothesis driven, deductive, reliable, valid, reproducible, objective, generalizable

Methods: large scale, surveys, random control trials

Data Type: generally quantitative

Analysis: statistics

This is so well done there is very little to add. “Positivism” is defined as: “The view that all true knowledge is scientific, and is best pursued by scientific method” (O’Leary, 2014). “Empiricism” is defined: “The view that all knowledge is limited to what can be observed through the senses. The cornerstone of scientific method” (O’Leary, 2014). Unpacking data type, “Data represented through numbers and analyzed using statistics”(O’Leary, 2014).


  • Characteristics of Qualitative Research

O’Leary (2014) offers an equally tightly packed summary of the “qualitative tradition” in figure 8.1, page 121:

Paradigm/assumption: subjectivism, interpretivism, constructivism

Methodology: ethnomethodology, phenomenology, ethnography, action research, inductive, subjective, idiographic, intuitive

Methods: small-scale, interviewing, observation, document analysis

Data Type: generally qualitative

Analysis: thematic exploration

“Subjectivism emphasizes the subjective elements of experience and accepts that personal experiences are the foundations for factual knowledge” (O’Leary, 2014). Oddly, O’Leary’s glossary does not provide definitions for “interpretivism” or “constructivism” nor does she define these in her main text. Essentially both are versions of anti-positivism, each with its own genealogy. The “data type” is unpacked this way: “Data represented through words, pictures, symbols, videos, or icons” (O’Leary, 2014).


  • Research Ethics and Institutional Requirements

“Ethics refers to a professional “code of practice” designed to protect the researched from an unethical process, and in turn protect the researcher from legal liabilities. Key ethical considerations include informed consent, causing no harm, and a right to privacy” (O’Leary, 2014).  A number of key incidences have sensitized lawmakers and education policymakers to standardize and enforce ethical standards in research. Most colleges and universities will have Institutional Review Boards and standardized policies for reviewing research proposals. Similarly, other types of organizations like tribal government may also have IRB types of policies and functions, though sometimes they follow or accept university standards and reviews. Hence, a project will always need university review and may require additional review at the site of study.(Creswell, 2015)


  • Considerations for Research Involving Children and Vulnerable Populations

These populations, when identified for research, are even more stringently protected. Both parent and child need to give permission.  Moreover, Bartholeme offers some additional guidelines:

  1. Help the child “achieve a developmentally appropriate understanding of the nature of her condition.”
  2. Disclose to the child “the nature of the proposed intervention and what she is likely to experience.”
  3. Assess the child’s understanding of the information provided.
  4. Secure “the child’s willingness to accept the proposed intervention” (Bartholome, 1996).

As well, some sort of ongoing dialog with parents and participants along with the signed documentation can be helpful in maintaining trust and respect and protections for all parties.


  • Research Paradigms

For the dominant culture, positivist, anti-positivist and critical theory are perhaps most broadly accepted paradigms. Certainly, another aspect we have explored extensively in this class is ethnic identity. Two additional paradigms gaining credibility include subtle realist and feminist. Implicit in aligning with a paradigm is a resonance with a research approach: for example, positivist approaches are quantitative, anti-positivist are qualitative, and critical theory approaches are participant-action research based. Feminist, subtle realist and ethnic paradigms seem to employ mixed method approaches. Ethnic identity and postmodern feminism paradigms may have further resonances because they are both addressing oppressive contexts and incomplete fields. Emphasizing that knowledge is lost or incomplete through language extinction, or genocide, ongoing stories/dialectics of oppression/liberation. A subtle realist paradigm is informed by ideas from quantum mechanics or cybernetics, and so offers a different approach to both hard and social sciences (Cohen & Crabtree, 2006).


  • Research Methodologies

The broadest brush of methodologies flows from ones research paradigm. Hence, from positivistic paradigm experimental and quantitative methods are expected. From an interpretivist paradigm, interviewing, observation and textual analysis and qualitative methods are expected. From critical theory paradigm, action research methods, such as observation, planning, doing or making, and assessment cycles are expected. Postmodern and subtle realist paradigms of necessity employ mixed methods and this likewise has reflected back on interpretivist and critical paradigms (Cohen & Crabtree, 2006).


  • Research Methods

These are the specific data gathering activities (O’Leary, 2014) and examples include, surveys, interviews, focus groups and micro-ethnographies.


  • Theory in Research (sometimes referred to as a theoretical framework)

“A theoretical framework is used to limit the scope of the relevant data by focusing on specific variables and defining the specific viewpoint [framework] that the researcher will take in analyzing and interpreting the data to be gathered. It also facilitates the understanding of concepts and variables according to given definitions and builds new knowledge by validating or challenging theoretical assumptions” (Labaree, 2016). Six approaches to the work include: examine the thesis, brainstorm variables, review literature, list and map constructs, and variables, review relevant social science theories, and discuss assumptions (Labaree, 2016).


  • Correlation is not necessarily Causation

“’Correlation’ is a statistical technique that can show whether, and how strongly, pairs of variables are related (O’Leary, 2014). What this analysis cannot do is order the correlated variables in a causal sequence. Discovering a correlation may lead to the creation of a hypothesis (null or alternative) the selection of a multi-level independent variable to test follows with a focus on manipulating levels. If this is done well, systematically, repeatedly, and results follow from predictions then the study is moving towards identifying causation (Creswell, 2015).


  • Sample Size and Population

“In quantitative research, we systematically identify our participants and sites through random sampling: in qualitative research we identify our participants and sites on purposeful sampling based on places and people that can best help us understand our central phenomena” (Creswell, 2015).  Simple random sampling offers the preferred approach for statistical studies after that systematic and stratified sampling, multistage cluster sampling, convenience sampling and snowball sampling (Creswell, 2015).  Sample size depends in part on the desired outcomes, experimental group size, at least fifteen, correlational study of thirty or more participants, and for a survey study, 350 participants (Creswell, 2015).


  • Student t-Tests

“Student’s’ t Test is one of the most commonly used techniques for testing a hypothesis on the basis of a difference between sample means. Explained in layman’s terms, the t test determines a probability that two populations are the same with respect to the variable tested.”(Caprette)

  • Only if there is a direct relationship between each specific data point in the first set and one and only one specific data point in the second set, such as measurements on the same subject ‘before and after,’ then the paired t test MAY be appropriate.
  • If samples are collected from two different populations or from randomly selected individuals from the same population at different times, use the test for independent samples (unpaired).
  • Here’s a simple check to determine if the paired t test can apply – if one sample can have a different number of data points from the other, then the paired t test cannot apply (Caprette)


  • Ethnography

“The Study of cultural groups in a bid to understand, describe and interpret a way of life from the point of view of its participants” (O’Leary, 2014). Creswell identifies ten types of ethnographies: realist, confessional, life history, auto-ethnography, micro-ethnography, case study, critical, feminist, postmodern and novels, in table 14.1, page 468 (Creswell, 2015)  This proliferation of methods is a reaction to the book:

Clifford, J., Marcus, G. E., & School of American Research (Santa Fe, N.M.). (1986). Writing culture: The poetics and politics of ethnography: a School of American Research advanced seminar. Berkeley: University of California Press.

The upshot is this book demonstrated the end of the “canon” and a crisis of representation a classic deconstruction during a particularly post-modern moment (Creswell, 2015). Observation, interviews, document analysis, and surveys are the basic sources of data used in writing ethnographies (O’Leary, 2014).


  • Phenomenology

Is first a philosophical methodology accordingly, its foundational literature is dense and focused on abstract examples and explanations. Hence, it is less available to scholars and more difficult to practice. That said, Husserl, and Heidegger had bold visions for the value and impact of these approaches. Phenomenology makes two distinctive moves at the outset: the first is to address the phenomena over and before all else, the second, an aspect of the first, is to give primacy in inquiry to the embodied self. The first move silences metaphysics and epistemology giving priority to the object of inquiry. The second shows the inquiry to be necessarily an aspect of embodiment and lived experience. Obviously, it is incredibly challenging to stop and silence our explanations and experience the phenomena directly. Indeed one of the grounding an assumption in this course is that that is not possible and in the case of Indigenousness methodologies perhaps strategically ill advised. Nevertheless, it is a recurrent struggle in the history of inquiry; logical positivism tried to do it and tried to set mathematics as a common language of inquiry, for example. Another example from our course is grounded theory that waits for the explanatory theory to come from patterns in the data. We see Buddhism engaging in a version of it in their meditative practices.

This first step referred to as “bracketing” aims at silencing preconceptions. Above I mention the importance that phenomenology places in the embodied inquiry. Ihde explains saying: “every experiencing has tis reference or direction towards what is experienced and contrarily, every experienced phenomenon refers to or reflects a mode of experiencing to which it is present” (1986)Said differently my intention and I realized together with my inquiry and my object of inquiry. Phenomenology provides several hermeneutic (interpretive) rules at the outset 1) “attend to the phenomena of experience as they appear”…, 2) “…describe don’t explain,…” 3) “… equalize all immediate phenomena,…” 4) “…{s}eek out structural or invariant features of the phenomena” (Ihde, 1986). The next step is seeking variations “sufficient examples or variations upon examples as might be necessary to discover the structural features being sought” (Ihde, 1986). In the end, the data, interviews, diaries, drawings, and video look very similar to other qualitative inquires but how the researcher manages themselves and their approach to these data is the difference that makes a difference.

Take note of the more dramatic features of the phenomenological shift.

The first shift was what the Husserlian would call the deliberate shift from the natural to a phenomenological attitude. Those first given appearance…, seemed to have a certain familiarity, a naturalness, which was take for granted and tacitly assumed to be the possibility of the thing in question. On reflection, the Husserlian epoche is a device for breaking the bonds of familiarity we have with things, in order to see those things anew. But it is a device, because Husserlian phenomenology seeing has already placed itself outside and above naïve seeing.

Phenomenological seeing deliberately looked for possibilities rather than the familiar, the taken for granted or the natural givenness of an object. Guided by this heuristic principle, phenomenological seeing pointed out strange possibilities—strange, that is from the point of view of the sedimented and strongly held natural attitude. The first distinct perceptual possibilities appeared as dramatically different, surprising, and in some cases perhaps initially difficult to attain. This break with sedimented …beliefs was necessary to clear the field for phenomenological, contrast to empirical, investigation.

Once broken, the… beliefs were reshaped so that a new level of familiarity emerged, the level of essential seeing, or eidetic investigation in Husserlian language. Now the sense of phenomena was opened, and their possibilities seen to be multiple, complex and perhaps indefinite…. The sense of the phenomena changed, and the sense of seeing changed, both being open textured…. The movement is a paradigm shift, which moves the investigator from one set of concerns, beliefs, and habits of seeing to another. It also contains a value claim that the new paradigm is better then the familiar one, at least theoretically and philosophically, because (a) new discover were made, (b) the previous point of view is shown to be inadequate in perceiving the field of phenomena and in its theoretical insights, and (c) it allows the development of a depth ordering of the new wider field of phenomena (Ihde, 1986).


  • Case Study Research

This is the thorough and deep study of a single situation relevant to the topic, cases may be about individuals, institutions, cultural groups, and events (O’Leary, 2014). Selecting the right number and type of cases is important. Selection can result from pragmatic considerations like availability, and access, specific cases may further making an argument either by showing the typical or the atypical, or finally based on the cases specific interest (O’Leary, 2014). Case study is a type of qualitative research and accordingly the specific data may come from interviews, focus groups, videos, diaries, images and so on.


  • Participant Observations

O’Leary offers two types of observation covert observation and candid observation. Within each type, she offers two approaches: participant and non-participant. Accordingly, for participant-covert observation we are talking about “going undercover” whereas non-participant-covert might look like online lurking as another example (O’Leary, 2014). Observation offers both advantages, “opportunity to record information as it occurs in a setting, to study actual behavior, and to study individuals who have difficulty verbalizing…” and disadvantages, “…you are limited to those sites and situations where you can gain access, and in those sites you may have difficulty developing rapport” (Creswell, 2015).  Creswell more fully defines the role and tasks of participant observers this way:  “A participant observer is an observational role adopted by researchers when they take part in activities in the setting they observe…. This role requires seeking permission to participate in activities and assuming a comfortable role as observer in the setting” (Creswell, 2015).


  • Interview Techniques

Creswell offers an “interview protocol” saying:  “As already mentioned, audiotaping of interviews provides a detailed record of the interview: As a backup, you need to take notes during the interview and have the question ready to be asked. An interview protocol serves the purpose of reminding you of the questions and provides a means for recording notes” (Creswell, 2015). In addition to recording, this protocol standardizes the administration of the interview. In my experience, practicing the interview prior to meeting with informants is important both to refine the questions, both, to develop flow and create coherent prompts for facilitating the conversation. Getting feedback from the practice respondents is also important. Practice with your audiotaping or screen capture before the interviews and be confident in your ability to use and troubleshoot the technology. Being systematic and professional in approaching interviewees as you set up the interviews and taking care of hygiene needs, like restrooms and offering light snacks and beverages build trust and respect. Introducing yourself and framing the procedure will also help to relax the moment (O’Leary, 2014).  Clean up your notes immediately after the interview, rather than depending upon memory later. Situations that require translation will be more complicated and will require both greater preparation, more time in the interview, and more extensive note taking and review with the translator after the interview all the more reason to leave ample time. Clarify expectations about transcription as well in this situation.


  • Focus Groups Pro’s and Con’s


There are several advantages in using focus group interview: It is comparatively easy to conduct. It is economically efficient. It generates opportunity to collect data from the group interaction. It gives speed in the supply of the results. It allows a relatively large sample size for a qualitative study



There are, however, disadvantages in using focus group interview: The research is not carried out in a natural setting, and the researcher has less control over the data generated. The data may be difficult to analyze. The interviewer must have good interview skills. Assembling a group may require additional resources (Hurtado & Dey, 2003)


  • Quantitative Data Analysis

The first step is a well thought out research problem, a well-articulated hypothesis. The next step is a well-crafted instrument and a plan for meaningful sampling. Without that groundwork, the data analysis is probably impossible. O’Leary offers five steps: “(1) how to manage your data; (2) the nature of the variables; (3) the role and function of both descriptive and inferential statistics; (4) appropriate use of statistical tests; and (5) effective presentation” (O’Leary, 2014).


  • Qualitative Data Analysis

Similarly, O’Leary describes five tasks in qualitative data analysis: “(1) organize the raw date; (2) enter and code the data; (3) search for meaning through thematic analysis; (4) interpret meaning; and (5) draw conclusions…”(2014). Beyond these five tasks, O’Leary identifies six steps: “Identifying Biases/Noting Overall Impressions; Reducing the Coding into Themes; Searching for Patterns and Interconnections; Mapping and Building Themes; Building and Verifying Theories; Drawing Conclusions” (2014).


  • Advantages and Disadvantages of Mixed-Methods


Strengthens the weaknesses of both quantitative and qualitative research by combining them. Two ways of thinking creates stronger theory and provides more evidence than studying a research problem than either quantitative or qualitative research by themselves. Permissions are given to allow the use all of the tools of data collection available, rather than being restricted to the types of data for each research type. Ensures the questions are answered unlike those that cannot be answered by qualitative or quantitative approaches. Encourages collaboration across between quantitative and qualitative researchers. Encourages the use of multiple worldviews or paradigms rather than the typical paradigms for quantitative researchers and others for qualitative researchers. It also creates a paradigm that might encompass all of quantitative and qualitative research. Mixed methods research is “practical” because it allows the researcher to use all or any methods possible to address a research problem.


Mixed methods research is not easy and can be very time consuming. Collection and analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data can also be confusing because of the amount of data. Requires clear presentation to get maximum benefit out of study. Often times researchers only are familiar with only one type of research and can only explain that one.
Requires knowledge of both forms of data collection (Werth).


  • Action Research

“Research strategies that tackle real-world problems in participatory and collaborative ways. Action research produces change and knowledge in an integrated fashion through a cyclical process“ (O’Leary, 2014).  Creswell augments this understanding saying: “Educators aim to improve the practice of education by studying issue or problems they face. Educators reflect about these problems, collect and analyze data, and implement changes based on their findings. In some cases, researchers address a local, practical problem, such as a classroom issue for the teacher. In other situations researchers seek to empower, and emancipate individuals from situations that constrain their self-development and self-determination” (Creswell, 2015).  Action research is common in business practices as well usability testing for website design, and lean waste management projects in business situations, for examples. Although communication across these two applications seems inconsistent and incomplete there is probably much researchers can learn from this different applications of similar methodologies and methods.


Works Cited

Bartholome, W. (1996). Ethical Issues in Pediatric Research The Ethics of Research Involving Human Subjects (pp. 360-361). Frederick, MD: University Publishing Group.

Caprette, D. “Students” t Test (For Independent Samples). Retrieved from

Cohen, D., & Crabtree, B. (2006, July 2006). Qualitative Research Guidelines Project.   Retrieved from

Creswell, J. W. (2015). Educational research : planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (5th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Hurtado, S., & Dey, E. (2003). Tools for Qualitative Researchers: Focus Groups Method.   Retrieved from

Ihde, D. (1986). Experimental Phenomenology: An Introduction. Albany: State Univerisy of New York Press.

Labaree, R. V. (2016). Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Theoretical Framework.   Retrieved from

O’Leary, Z. (2014). The Essential Guide to Doing Your Research Project (2nd ed.). Los Angelas: Sage Publications Ltd.

Werth, L. Pros and Cons of the method.   Retrieved from