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Research Basics and Glossary

In this resource: Types of research Elements of research process Reading academic journal articles Glossary of research terms Research is simply asking a question, and trying to find an answer- the search for knowledge. For example, if you want to know what the weather is going to be tomorrow, you might look at the newspaper, watch the TV weather report, or look online. Youve just done research! The knowledge gained from research can help us to understand and solve problems. There are many ways to do research. You can do research in a library or on the Internet to learn specific information about the world. But research is not limited to looking up information that is already available. In fact, research can help discover new information and create new knowledge. Often the information we need to address problems we care about is not known. Over the years researchers have developed ways of collecting information to answer questions. When research is done well, the results can provide powerful evidence to prove that problems exist and to make positive changes. When researchers try to answer questions about peoples health or behaviors they often need research participants, people who are willing to answer questions, provide access to their medical or school records, or have physical exams. Only people who want to should participate in research, nobody should ever be pressured, forced, or tricked into participating. Some research, such as medical research testing a new treatment or community research testing an educational program, might directly benefit the person who participates in the research. However, often research does not directly benefit the individual, but provides information to answer questions about the community and inform programs and policies that the individual may benefit from in the future. TYPES OF RESEARCH Epidemiological studies generally ask the questions: Who has the disease? How widespread and how severe is it? Why do these people (and not those other people) have it? Community assessments ask questions about the needs and resources of a population. These are usually conducted to identify gaps for service needs or to gain a sense of a communitys capacity or resources, skills and commitment to build community strengths and address problems. Behavioral research asks questions about the social, behavioral and cultural influences that help explain why people protect themselves from a health or safety threat or put themselves at risk or why they. Evaluation asks questions about a policy, program, intervention, delivery model or service to see what it accomplished and whether it was successful. Evaluation questions often seek to measure success and inform future growth. Types of evaluation include: formative and summative; process and outcome. Clinical research/trials are studies that ask questions about the effectiveness, benefits and harm associated with a specific intervention or treatment. These are conducted in medical contexts to see if a particular procedure or pharmaceutical medication is safe and effective or can also be used to test
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the effectiveness of a behavioral, environmental or other type of intervention. DEVELOPING A RESEARCH QUESTION What do you want to know? About your program? About the population you serve? About the larger community? Elements of a research question: What you want to find out About whom Time frame and location (if appropriate) Uses words like- why, what, which is best? The research question needs to be: specific, relevant, and research-able. Example research questions: What are the mental health service needs of African American girls age 13-19 in the ABC neighborhood? What impact does the school-based gardening program have on vegetable and fruit consumption of third graders at LMN elementary school? ELEMENTS OF RESEARCH PROCESS

Raise a > Plan to > question seek answers conclusions

Intensively > Analyze > seek answers

Draw

Research progresses in phases: developing the research question, designing data collection instruments, collecting data, cleaning data and entering data, analyzing and interpreting the findings, disseminating the findings. Question: What you want to know and about whom or what? Data: What kind of information will you need to answer that question? Qualitative and quantitative Method: Methods are the things that you will do to get your data. Methods include your strategy to reach your population as well as the approach you choose to asking it. You may use different methods to answer the same question. Some examples of different methods are focus groups, interviews, surveys and observation. Results: The description of what you found out from the investigation Analysis/Discussion: Your analysis of what the results mean. Recommendations: Your ideas about what action should be taken based on the results. In addition to informing action plans, recommendations can speak to limitations and gaps in the research, suggesting courses for further investigation. Dissemination: Your plan to get the word out. WHAT ARE DATA? Data are all the answers gathered during the research process. Most commonly data are in the form of text or numbers, such as answers to interview questions,
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scales from 15, numbers of partners in the last 6 weeks, etc. There are also different levels of data you can collect, such as data on individuals, groups, organizations and communities. Data can be qualitative (in narrative or text form); e.g. information collected from focus groups or in-depth interviews. Data can also be quantitative (in the form of numbers); e.g. survey data and data from epidemiological reports. HOW ARE DATA COLLECTED? Data can be collected through surveys, interviews, observations, focus groups, forms, reports and materials that were constructed for other purposes, such as client intake forms. The research question will dictate the kinds of data needed and the ways in which it is to be collected. Deciding how to do it depends on the research question and how much is already known about the population. Procedures for data collection must be developed in detail. Among the details to be defined are who will do what and how the procedures will be carried out from collecting the data to having it ready for analysis. Examples of tasks to be defined are: deciding what kind of data is most appropriate for answering the research question, constructing the interview or survey questions, typing and copying the survey, recruiting participants, getting food or incentives for focus groups, conducting interviews, entering data into the computer, reading through transcripts, transcribing tapes, etc. READING ACADEMIC JOURNAL ARTICLES What is an academic journal? Academic journals are periodicals in which academic researchers publish articles on their work. Academic journals are typically peer-reviewed journals. What is the peer-review process? Getting research published in peer-reviewed (also called refereed) academic journals usually involves three or four steps. First, the researcher must submit an article manuscript for consideration. Second, the journal editors will send the submission to other scholars who do similar work and who are qualified to review the article. Third, editors will evaluate the reviews and decide whether to reject or accept the submission. Usually, the response is either a rejection or an acceptance contingent on the author making revisions. If the author is asked to make revisions, they must then complete the fourth step, which is to resubmit the article for another round of reviews. Sometimes the article is accepted at this point and other times authors are asked to make further revisions. The process is meant to make sure that only the best, most clearly written and rigorously researched articles are published. Information contained in a standard journal article reporting research There is some variation in the way journals format research articles, but there is some standard information that is included no matter what the format. Here are some of the key components of articles and the questions they answer: What is this article about? Abstract: Most articles start with a paragraph called the abstract, which very briefly summarizes the whole article. Introduction: This section introduces the topic of the article completely and discusses what the article contributes to existing knowledge on the topic. This section may also include: What do we
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already know about this topic and what is left to discover? Literature review: A review of existing research and theory on the topic. The review of literature is meant to discuss previous work on the topic, point out what questions remain, and relate the research presented in the rest of the article to the existing literature. How did the author do the research? Methods and data: There is always some discussion of the methods used to conduct the study being reported. What did the author find and how did they find it? Analysis and Results: This section discusses the kind of analysis that was conducted on the data and what the results are. What does it all mean and why is it important? Discussion and Conclusion: Articles typically end by discussing what the results mean and how the study contributes to existing knowledge. Here the research questions are answered. The conclusion is usually the final section and it typically places the research in a larger context, explaining the importance of the research and discussing where future research on the topic should be headed. This section also usually discusses limitations of the study. Shortcuts to reading journal articles Read the abstract first: Titles dont always give much information. The abstract should give you just enough information to let you know the basics of the article. From this you will know whether you should read on or look elsewhere for your project. Some journals print a list of keywords pertaining to the article as well. These are further clues about the article. Read the introduction and discussion/conclusion next: These sections will give you the main argument of the article, which should be helpful in determining its relevance to you and your project. Youll also get a glimpse of the findings of the research being reported. Read about the methods next: If what youve read so far interests you, get a sense of how the research was done. Is it a qualitative or quantitative project? What data are the study based on?

GLOSSARY of RESEARCH TERMS


ABSTRACT: Abbreviated summary of a study to briefly explain the purpose, methods, results, and conclusions about the study. ANALYSIS: Researchers analyze data to get research results. For example, you might use a survey to ask 100 people their age, whether they were male or female, and whether they had a flu shot last year. The answers the 100 people gave you would be your data. Your analysis could tell you what percent of people got a flu shot. You might also analyze the data to see whether men or women were more likely to get a flu shot. You could also see if older or younger people were more likely to get a flu shot. ASSESSMENT: A test or other way of measuring something, such as a persons or communitys health or goals or needs; often the first test in a series of tests, or a test given before treatment starts. Community assessments ask questions about the needs and resources of a population. These are usually conducted to identify gaps for service needs or to gain a sense of a communitys capacity or resources, skills and commitment to build community strengths and address problems. ATTRITION: The drop out rate among people who are being studied. People may quite because they want to, or they may not be able to stay in the study group (because of illness, lack of time, moving to another city, etc.) or they may not fit
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into the study anymore (if they get a job or marry, for example, in a study about single people who are not working). BEHAVIORAL RESEARCH: Research that asks questions about the social, behavioral and cultural influences that help explain why people protect themselves from a health or safety threat or put themselves at risk or why they. BIAS: Something that may lead a researcher to wrong conclusions; for example, mistakes or problems in how the study is planned, or how the information is gathered or looked at. It is impossible to conduct completely bias-free research. CLINCAL RESEARCH/TRIALS: Research that that ask questions about the effectiveness, benefits and harm associated with a specific intervention or treatment. These are conducted in medical contexts to see if a particular procedure or pharmaceutical medication is safe and effective or can also be used to test the effectiveness of a behavioral, environmental or other type of intervention. This research is conducted with human subjects. COLLABORATION: Researchers usually collaborate with others. A true collaboration provides benefits to everyone included. Collaboration typically involves planning together, sharing resources, and managing resources together. Collaboration is best when all groups understand each others point of view, communicate openly, and trust each other. COMMUNITY: A community is a group of people who have something in common. You might be a member of a variety of communities. As a resident of your city you are part of the 'Chicago community.' Some neighborhoods in Chicago might also be considered 'communities.' Communities may also result from a shared interest or practice, like a community of soccer players or the Catholic community. People who share a race or ethnicity might also make a community, such as the 'Latino community' or the 'African-American community.' COMMUNITY-BASED PARTICIPATORY RESEARCH (CBPR): Collaborative approach to research that involves all partners equally in the research process and recognizes the unique strengths that each brings. COMPARISON GROUP: A group of individuals who have similar characteristics to the program participants (such as race/ethnicity, gender and age) which is compared to the program (or intervention) group in an evaluation process to determine which type of services, activities or products provided by your program produced the expected changes. The comparison group may not receive any services or may receive a different set of services, activities or products. CONFIDENTIALITY: A promise from the researcher to the person participating in research that no information will be given to anyone except the researchers if the information shows who the person being researched is. For example, an interviewer could promise an ex-patient that complaints about the ex-patient makes about a doctor would never be shared or available to anyone not working on the study, unless the complaints were completely separated from the ex-patient who made it. CASE STUDY: A non-experimental design that provides a detailed analysis of an individual program. The focus is on description of activities, not on determining cause. Case studies may be performed on several programs simultaneously to allow qualitative comparisons of certain aspects of the programs. COHORT STUDY: See Longitudinal Study. CONTROL GROUP: A group of people whose characteristics (such as race/ethnicity, gender and age) are similar to the intervention/experimental group of people but
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who do not receive the program/ intervention/change/treatment being evaluated. For example, in a study testing a medication, the control group would not take the medication. This is similar to a comparison group, except that participants are randomly assigned either to the intervention group or the control group. CORRELATION: A statistical measure of how much two or more things (variables, values, scores, etc.) are related or associated or change together. For example, both things may get higher at the same time, or lower at the same time, or one may get higher while the other gets lower. Saving money and spending money are correlated because the more money you save, the less you spend. CROSS-SECTIONAL STUDY: A cross-section is a sample of a population. A crosssectional study examines this sample at one point in time. DATA: Specific information or facts that are collected. In research, data is analyzed to draw conclusions. Examples of data include demographic information, answers to survey questions, blood samples, counts of how many people use the emergency room, or recordings of focus group discussions. DATA ANALYSIS: The process of systematically applying certain techniques (e.g., statistics) to describe, summarize and compare the data collected and draw conclusions. DATA CLEANING: The process of preparing data for analysis that involves activities such as checking questions for logical answers. DATABASE: A collection of data that can be easily accessed and analyzed. Databases are usually stored on computers. DISSEMINATION: Dissemination is another word for spreading the news about how a research project was done and what was discovered. The purpose of dissemination is to make sure that research is useful to many people, not just the ones who did the project. People might use information that is disseminated to make decisions, plan policy changes, or take action. When a research project is planned it is important to think about how the results will be disseminated to the people who are most likely to benefit from it. ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA: The detailed rules for what kind of people a researcher will let into a certain study. For example, being over 60 and having a diagnosis of anxiety disorder could be eligibility criteria for a study about how a new medication works for elderly, anxious people. EPIDEMIOLOGICAL RESEARCH: Epidemiology is the study of the distribution of disease in a population. This type of research can tell us about the characteristics and trends associated with a particular disease or diseases in the population, such as which groups have a disease, how wide-spread it is, how severe it is, why do these groups have disease (and not those other groups) and so on. ETHICS OF RESEARCH: Questions and opinions about whether what the researcher is doing or trying to do, and how, are morally right. Some of these issues are confidentiality, human rights, and fair reporting. EVALUATION: Research that asks questions about a policy, program, intervention, delivery model or service to see what it accomplished and whether it was successful. Evaluation questions often seek to measure success and inform future growth. Types of evaluation include: formative and summative; process and outcome. FOCUS GROUP: A research method that looks at peoples ideas and attitudes in a small group setting (usually 612 people). Used to identify problems, educate or give knowledge to participants, and plan and evaluate programs.
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FORMATIVE EVALUATION: Evaluation during the design and pre-testing of programs to guide program development. Used to assist planners, managers and staff to develop a new program or improve an ongoing program. HUMAN SUBJECTS: A "human subject" is a living individual about whom an investigator obtains either: data through interaction or intervention with the individual, or identifiable private information. People who volunteer to participate in a scientific study, also known as human participants, study participants or human volunteers. HYPOTHESIS: When researchers plan a project they usually have a hypothesis they want to test. In community research, a hypothesis often predicts how or why a program will cause a result. For example, a researcher may want to test the hypothesis that providing tutors to students with low grades will improve their test scores. The data collected through research can be used to test hypotheses. To be a research hypothesis a statement must be clear enough that it can be tested. For example, "TV news is more interesting than comedies is not a hypothesis, but "Most Americans think that TV news is more interesting than comedies" is a hypothesis. IMPACT EVALUATION: The assessment of the effects of an intervention beyond the outcomes on individuals targeted by the intervention, i.e., what is the impact of the availability of the program on the broader community? INFORMED CONSENT: Researchers need informed consent from people before they can include them in their research. After a researcher has explained the purpose, type of information being collected, and way information will be used the person can then freely choose to be in the research study. If after the explanation, the person freely chooses to be in the research study they have given informed consent. Informed consent is usually recorded on a signed document, but occasionally it is a verbal agreement. INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD (IRB): An IRB is a committee made up of researchers and community representatives who carry out an independent review of proposed studies involving people to make sure that the research projects will not hurt anyone.. They look at the ethical standards of the proposed research. INSTRUMENT (DATA COLLECTION INSTRUMENT): Researchers often call the ways they collect data instruments. What they mean is anything they use to collect and organize information such as surveys, intake forms, attendance records, or tests. Instruments may be written for a project or instruments from a past project may be used. Instruments from past projects are often used when the researcher wants to compare results from different projects. INTERVENTION: A specific activity or set of related activities that try to bring about change in a particular target population such as improving heart health or decreasing hospitalizations from falls. An intervention has distinct process and outcome objectives and a protocol outlining the steps for implementation. LITERATURE REVIEW: An account of what has been published on a topic by researchers. LONGITUDINAL STUDY (also called COHORT STUDY): A study in which the same persons are observed repeatedly over time, usually at regular intervals. METHODS: The things that you will do to get your data. Methods include your strategy to reach your population as well as the approach you choose to asking it. You may use different methods to answer the same question. Some examples of different methods are focus groups, interviews, surveys and observation. NEEDS ASSESSMENT: The process of obtaining and analyzing information from a variety of sources in order to determine the needs of a particular client, population or community.
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OBSERVATIONAL RESEARCH: The researcher measures but does not intervene; a study of something that can be observed as it really is and there is no attempt made to change the subject or participant in the research process. OUTCOME EVALUATION: The process of determining the degree to which a program or intervention achieves the intended objectives. Outcome evaluation is concerned with detecting any changes as a result of the intervention, and the degree to which they are the result of the intervention. PEER REVIEW: Researchers often seek to publish the results of their work in peer reviewed journals. A researcher will write an article describing some part of a research project and send it to a journal. Other researchers then make comments about the article. If the other researchers think the work is good, the work gets published. Researchers at universities need to publish articles in peer reviewed journals to get promotions. PILOT STUDY: A trial run with a few participants or a small study using the same methods, intervention procedures, or data collection instruments such as questionnaires that a researcher wants to use for a larger study or next phase of a study to see how well those methods work. POPULATION: The total number, usually of people, in the groups being studied. In some studies, the population may be organizations, records, or events instead of people. PRE AND POST DESIGN: An evaluation design in which a single program or group is measured prior to program implementation and again after the end of the program. PROCESS EVALUATION: A descriptive assessment of the implementation of program activities, what was done, to whom, how, when and where, to learn how the program was implemented and if it reached its intended audience. PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR (PI): The main person running a research study. PROTOCOL: The detailed research plan that gives information about the way a study will be done; includes purpose of the research, research question, why the study is important, anticipated results, all the materials that will be used in the study (questionnaires, surveys). QUALITATIVE DATA/STUDIES: Research using what people say or write in words, rather than numbers or peoples numbered answers; for example, information collected from focus groups or in-depth interviews. QUANTITATIVE DATA/STUDIES: Studies of information that people give that is numerical, in the form of numbers, for example, survey data and data from epidemiological reports. QUASI-EXPERIMENTAL: A study design in which two groups of subjects or participants are studied but not randomly assigned. RANDOM ASSIGNMENT (or RANDOMIZATION): A method of assigning research participants to two or more groups by chance. Randomization is done to draw samples that are representative of a known population and to ensure that groups can be statistically compared.

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RANDOM SAMPLING: A technique where each research participant is chosen entirely by chance and each member of the population has an equal chance of being selected for the sample. RELIABILITY: The consistency of a measure or a question in obtaining very similar or identical results when used repeatedly. REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL (RFP): An announcement that a grant or other funding is available. It also asks for responses (applications, descriptions of projects) from people who want to get that funding. RESEARCH DESIGN: A research design is the overall plan for a research project. Research designs tell what data will be gathered, from whom, how and when, and how the data will be analyzed. RESEARCH FINDINGS: The analysis of the results from a research study. Research findings describe what the investigator(s) learned from conducting the inquiry. This serves as an evidence base to make recommendations and develop further action. RESEARCH PARTICIPANT/SUBJECT: Any one whom information is gathered about as part of the research project. RESEARCH PROCESS: The series of steps which make up research from the development of an idea to the completed research project: (1) turn your idea into a research question, (2) review the literature about the topic, (3) design the study and develop measurement instruments, (4) write a proposal, (5) collect the data, (6) examine the data and interpret findings, and (7) report on the study and distribute the findings. RESULTS: In research, these are straightforward, factual pieces of information that come directly from your respondents. They report: who the sample population is (descriptive statistics); the total number of respondents; distributions of responses; transcripts, observations, quotations from qualitative research SAMPLE: A group of participants selected from a total population with the expectation that studying the group will provide important information about the total population. STATISTICAL SIGNIFICANCE: A measure of whether an observed difference or relationship is larger or smaller than would be expected to occur by chance alone. Statistical results are often considered to be significant if there is less than a 5% chance (.05 or 5 out of 100) that they would have occurred by chance alone. SUMMATIVE EVALUATION: Evaluation toward the end of or after an implementation cycle of a program is complete. Summative evaluation studies identify areas of success and deficiency within a program. They are not only beneficial to the agency, but can be disseminated as best practices and lessons learned for other projects to learn from. TRANSLATIONAL RESEARCH: This is when results from basic science research are used to produce new technologies, drugs, treatment, and prevention options for health care providers, patients, and community members. Its also when researchers help get new information about prevention, access to health care, and medical choices to the public. VALIDITY: The extent to which a survey question or other measurement instrument actually measures what it is supposed to measure. VARIABLE: A characteristic that can change or vary among different people or in the same person over time. For example, race or ethnicity varies among individuals, and income or weight varies for the same individual over time.
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Sources: Sadaf Shallwani and Shama Mohammed. 2007. Community-Based Participatory Research: A Training Manual for Community-Based Researchers. Evaluating CDC-Funded Health Department HIV Prevention Programs, Glossary of Terms. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/aboutdhap/perb/TERMSfinal.pdf Center for AIDS Prevention, University of California San Francisco. 2001. Working Together: A Guide to Collaborative Research in HIV Prevention. http://www.bath.ac.uk/e-learning/gold/glossary http://www.cstprogram.org/PCS&T/Research%20Glossary/Dressed_Down_Glossary.pdf

City of Lawrence Mayors Health Task Force Research Initiative Working Group. Lawrence Initiative Research Glossary. http://lawrencemhtf.org/groups/index.php?group=riwg M Stewart, D Colley, A Huff, H Felix, B Shelby, E Strickland, P Redmond, M Evans, B Baker, G Stephens, H Nuss, B McCabe-Sellers. Participatory Development and Implementation of a Community Research Workshop: Experiences From a Community-Based Participatory Research Partnership. Progress in Community Health Partnerships, 2009: 3:2: 165-178.

Community Engagement Program, Clinical and Translational Science Institute, University of California, San Francisco and Health Equity Initiative, San Francisco State University. 2009. CBOs Engaged in Research & Evaluation Training Series. Part One: Introduction to Creating Your Own Evidence.

http://www.brockport.edu/sociology/journal.html

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