Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Becker Medical Library logotype
Library Quicklinks and Information

Community-Engaged Research

Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms

Analysis: an examination of the topic you are studying. 

Baseline data: Recording the initial situation or condition before an intervention.

Bias: A loss of balance and accuracy in the use of research methods. It can appear in research via the sampling frame, random sampling, or non-response. It can also occur at other stages in research, such as while interviewing, in the design of questions, or in the way data are analyzed and presented. Bias means that the research findings will not be representative of, or generalizable to, a wider population (USC, 2018).

Blinding: Also known as masking, it is the process of not telling participants or researchers what treatment or intervention the participants are being given.  The purpose of this process is to prevent study participants and researchers from influencing the results (NIH, 2017).  

Capacity building: The development and strengthening of human and institutional resources (WHO, 2006).

Case Studies: Studies subject (the topic or research participant that is the focus of the study) in depth and can include qualitative and quantitative data.

Causation/Causality: The relationship between cause and effect (USC, 2018).

Clinical Study: A research study involving human volunteers (aka participants) that serves to add medical knowledge

Collaboration: The act of working together.  Can be individuals, communities, organizations, etc.

Community: Defined by who we are, our social connections or characteristics.

Community Engagement: A way in working so that everyone can participate and act to make change and address issues that affect the well-being of the community of focus.  It involves a partnership with individuals who identify within the community, with a special interest, or are in a similar situation. 

Correlation: Relationship of association.

Correlational/Descriptive Studies: Says issues or situations are related but cannot say one thing causes another.

Cost-Effective: The effectiveness or usefulness in relation to the cost (Perrin, 2016).

Data Analysis: The process of systematically applying statistical and/or logical methods to describe and illustrate, condense, and recap, and evaluate data. (ORI, n.d.)

Data collection: The process of gathering and measuring information on variables of interest in a systematic way that allows one to answer research questions, test hypotheses, and evaluate outcomes (ORI, n.d.).

Data Management: Describes the organization, storage, preservation, and sharing of data collected and used in a research project (University of Pittsburgh, 2018).

Data Reporting: The process of preparing and distributing research findings to the scientific community (ORI, n.d.).

Data: Observations that have been collected (Triola & Triola, 2006).

Dependent Variable (DV): The variable that depends on other factors being measured (USC, 2018)

Efficacy: How well something works; the ability to produce intended result. 

Eligibility Criteria: The key characteristics or requirements participants must meet.

Equitable/Equity: The fair distribution of health determinants, outcomes, and resources within and between segments of the population (Healthy People 2020).

Ethics: A system of moral principles and values applied to all aspects of evaluation and research that involve contact with human subjects (Perrin, 2016).

Evaluability Assessment: The process of assessing a program for the evaluation process.

Evaluation instrument: Survey questionnaire designed to collect evaluation data.

Evaluation: Process to determine if goals and objectives of research and/or program were met and guidelines were followed (Perrin, 2016). 

Evidence: The facts, information, or data that supports research question or study.  

Evidence-based methods or practices: Also known as “best practices”, the process of using current, best evidence in one’s practice.

Experiment: Examines the differences between randomly assigned groups (randomization) and can show causation. 

External Validity: Extent to which results of a study can be generalized to other settings, people, & over time.

 Hypothesis: A proposed explanation for why something occurs. It is like an educated guess (Triola & Triola, 2006).

Immediate outcome: Benefits or results to participants by the end of a program.

Independent Variables (IV): The variable that you control and is not affected by the other variables you are trying to measure (USC, 2018)

Informed Consent: Ongoing process to assure human subjects continue to understand their involvement is voluntary.  It reflects the individual’s right to respect and autonomy (Perrin, 2016). 

Inputs: The invested resources volunteers, time, money, equipment, etc.

Institutional Review Board (IRB): Committee that serves to formally approve, monitor, and review every type of research and evaluation with human subjects to protect the rights and welfare of the participants.

Internal Validity: How well the research design has been done.  It is measuring what was intended to be measured.

Intervention: In research, it is typically what is altered or changed to produce a desired effect or outcome.  It can be a program, a policy, behavior, treatment, and more. 

Investigation: Looking into or studying a subject or topic. 

Investigator: Researcher who oversees patient care during the study.

Logic model: Graphic depiction of a program from the planning phase through the evaluation.  A way to communicate the big picture (Perrin, 2016).

Long-term outcomes: Benefits or results that participants get a long time (after six months) after completing a program. Long-term outcomes are similar to impact.

Methods: Systematic approaches to the conduct of an operation or process. It includes steps of procedure, application of techniques, systems of reasoning or analysis, and the modes of inquiry employed by a discipline (USC, 2018).

Naturalistic Observation- Collects information by observing people, do not interfere with them, make a record of events.

Neighborhood:  It is an area between natural/manufactured boundaries.  Can be determined by physical, administrative, or psychological boundaries.

Objective:  To be unbiased, something that can be observed by anyone and can be verified

Outcomes: Results, changes or benefits that come from a program.

Outcomes: The results, changes, or benefits of a program.  They can be short medium or long.  Should be measurable and phrased in terms of change visual improvements, financial gains, connections, etc.

Outputs: Tangible materials or activities delivered educational pamphlets, volunteer hours, meetings, etc.

Participant Rights: The protections that are guaranteed to all participants involved in a research study.

Populations: The complete collection of all elements (Triola & Triola, 2006).

Primary Data: Data collected for the very first time (Goodman and Thompson Sanders, 2018).

Program impact: Condition or situation improvement as a result of a program.

Program input: Resources allocated for a program.

Program output: Educational materials and activities developed and delivered.

Public Health Surveillance Data: Data that tracks disease and health conditions.

Public Participation: Is based on the assumption that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process and requires two-way communication and collaborative problem solving.

Qualitative: Observations or data collection that typically cannot be expressed numerically. 

Quantitative: Approaches used to create numerical data to answer evaluation questions. It is data that uses numbers.

Quasi-Experiment: It examines the differences between assigned groups but does not use randomization.

Reliability: The consistency and quality of a measure.  Commonly known as “repeatability”. 

Research: The investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.  It is a process to learn new information (ORI, n.d.).

Sampling: The process of choosing participants for research (ORI, n.d.).

Scientific Method: A process or series of steps used to observe the world around you and create a hypothesis about relationships in the world (ORI, n.d.). 

Secondary Data: Data that has already been gathered (Goodman and Thompson Sanders, 2018)

Stakeholder: An individual who may be involved in, interested in, or affected by a program.

Subjective: Relies on a point of view, feelings/emotions, or personal experience 

Summative Evaluation: A comprehensive or cumulative evaluation that is conducted and made public to provide program decision makers and potential consumers with judgments about that program’s worth via important criteria. 

Survey Data: Collection of information on specific behaviors, experiences, events. Relies on questionnaires and interviews.

Systematic: Following a specific process or method of steps.

Systematic Procedures: The process of research that involves specific, ordered steps to reduce error and increase ability of replication. 

Validity: When a measure to captures the intended construct.  It describes whether findings truly represent what you are claiming to measure. 

Variables: Any characteristic or trait that can vary (USC, 2018).

Vulnerable Populations: Populations that when involved in research require special protections and regulations, a higher level of scrutiny, and limitations on research subject due to issues of informed consent (Salazar, Crosby, & DiClemente, 2015).


  • Goodman, M. & Thompson Sanders, V. (Eds.). (2018). Public Health Research Methods for Partnerships and Practice. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Healthy People 2020.  (2014). Disparities. Retrieved from about/foundation-health-measures/Disparities
  • National Institute of Health. (2017).  NIH Clinical Trials and You: The Basics.  Retrieved from
  • Office of Research Integrity. (n.d.).  Retrieved from
  • Perrin, K.M. (2016). Essential of Planning and Evaluation for Public Health. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning. 
  • Salazar, L., Crosby, R., &DiClemente, J. (2015). Research Methods in Health Promotion. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Triola, M.M. & Triola, M.F. (2006). Biostatistics for the Biological and Health Sciences. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
  • University of Pittsburgh. (2018). Research Data Management @ Pitt.  Retrieved from
  • University of Southern California. (2018). Glossary of Research Terms.  Retrieved from
  • University of Southern California. (2018). Organizing Your Social Science Research Paper: Independent and Dependent Variables. Retrieved from
  • World Health Organization. (2006).  Retrieved from

For information on more research terms, please review this glossary from the University of Southern California.