Organization for Autism Research

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GLOSSARY OF RESEARCH TERMS

Bias: A condition that, if not controlled, can influence the results of a research study.

Blind: Participants are “blind” when they do not know whether or not they are receiving the treatment or intervention being used in a research study.

Double blind: A “double-blind” condition exists when neither the participant nor the researcher know which participants are receiving the treatment or intervention being used in a research study.

Case: A “case” refers to one group under observation in a study or one instance of something occurring.

Informed Consent: Anyone participating in research is generally required to provide (and researchers are obligated to obtain) their agreement to participate. Informed consent requires that this agreement be given without reservation, with knowledge of the proposed intervention, and free from any coercion.

Multiple cases: “Multiple cases” refers to more than one group or one instance of something occurring.

Cohort: A “cohort” refers to a group of individuals identified by a common characteristic, which is studied over a period of time as part of a scientific investigation.

Control: “Control” refers to the condition or group that does not receive treatment.

Cross-section: A “cross-section” consists of a group of people who differ in age and/or other factors who provide information for the research study at the same point in time.

Face validity: A study is said to have “face validity” if it “rings true” or makes sense.

Generalizable: The extent to which a researcher is able to conclude with a certain degree of confidence that the findings of a study can be applied to other persons or situations.

Institutional Review Board: The Institutional Review Board (IRB) is an officially sanctioned assembly of at least 5, specifically trained professional whose responsibility it is to promote complete and adequate review of research activities that involve, in this case, human subjects. Each organization or institution that receives federal funds and conducts research is required to maintain an IRB.

Instrument and Measure: These two terms are used interchangeably to denote tools used to assess the outcome of a study, such as a questionnaire or observational coding scale.

Manipulation: In an experiment, “manipulation” occurs when a researcher does something to one variable to see if it affects another variable.

Mean: The average score for a group of participants.

Participant expectations: “Participant expectations” refers to things that people expect to happen when they participate in a research study.

Peer review: Academic and scientific journals generally require that articles be submitted to a committee of one’s peers to review for scientific merit and accuracy before appearing in a journal.

Placebo: “Placebo” refers to a pretend treatment that participants believe is the real treatment, such as a sugar pill.

Random assignment: Participants in a study are assigned to be in either an experimental group or a control group using a method similar to “flipping a coin,” so that they have an equal chance of being in either group.

Reliable: In research, something is considered to be reliable if it produces similar results when tested at different times.

Researcher expectations: “Researcher expectations” refers to things that researchers expect to happen when they conduct a research study.

Self-selected: Participants in research are considered “self-selecting” when they volunteer to participate in a study.

Statistically significant: The results of a study are considered “statistically significant” when the probability that they are due to chance is less than 5 percent.

Subject: Someone who participates in a study.

Validity: In research, “validity” refers to something being what it is supposed to be, and not something that it shouldn’t be.

Variables: The thing or things that are being studied.