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Types of Variables

We can distinguish between two types of variables according to the level of

1. Continuous or Quantitative Variables.
2. Discrete or Qualitative Variables.
A quantitative variable is one in which the variates differ in magnitude, e.g. income,
age, GNP, etc. A qualitative variable is one in which the variates differ in kind rather
than in magnitude, e.g. marital status, gender, nationality, etc.
Continuous or Quantitative Variables
Continuous variables can be classified into three categories:

Interval - scale Variables:

Interval scale data has order and equal intervals. Interval scale variables are
measured on a linear scale, and can take on positive or negative values. It is
assumed that the intervals keep the same importance throughout the scale. They
allow us not only to rank order the items that are measured but also to quantify
and compare the magnitudes of differences between them. We can say that the
temperature of 40C is higher than 30C, and an increase from 20C to 40C is
twice as much as the increase from 30C to 40C. Counts are interval scale
measurements, such as counts of publications or citations, years of education, etc.

Continuous Ordinal Variables

They occur when the measurements are continuous, but one is not certain
whether they are on a linear scale, the only trustworthy information being the
rank order of the observations. For example, if a scale is transformed by an
exponential, logarithmic or any other nonlinear monotonic transformation, it loses
its interval - scale property. Here, it would be expedient to replace the
observations by their ranks.

Ratio - scale Variables

These are continuous positive measurements on a nonlinear scale. A typical
example is the growth of bacterial population (say, with a growth function Ae Bt.).
In this model, equal time intervals multiply the population by the same ratio.
(Hence, the name ratio - scale).
Ratio data are also interval data, but they are not measured on a linear scale. .
With interval data, one can perform logical operations, add, and subtract, but one
cannot multiply or divide. For instance, if a liquid is at 40 degrees and we add 10
degrees, it will be 50 degrees. However, a liquid at 40 degrees does not have
twice the temperature of a liquid at 20 degrees because 0 degrees does not
represent "no temperature" -- to multiply or divide in this way we would have to
use the Kelvin temperature scale, with a true zero point (0 degrees Kelvin =
-273.15 degrees Celsius). In social sciences, the issue of "true zero" rarely arises,
but one should be aware of the statistical issues involved.

There are three different ways to handle the ratio-scaled variables.

Simply as interval scale variables. However this procedure should be avoided as it

can distort the results.
As continuous ordinal scale.

By transforming the data (for example, logarithmic transformation) and then

treating the results as interval scale variables.

Qualitative or Discrete Variables

Discrete variables are also called categorical variables. A discrete variable, X, can take
on a finite number of numerical values, categories or codes. Discrete variables can be
classified into the following categories:

Nominal variables
Ordinal variables
Dummy variables from quantitative variables
Preference variables
Multiple response variables
Nominal Variables
Nominal variables allow for only qualitative classification. That is, they can be
measured only in terms of whether the individual items belong to certain distinct
categories, but we cannot quantify or even rank order the categories: Nominal
data has no order, and the assignment of numbers to categories is purely
arbitrary. Because of lack of order or equal intervals, one cannot perform
arithmetic (+, -, /, *) or logical operations (>, <, =) on the nominal data. Typical
examples of such variables are:

2. Female

Marital Status:

4. Widower


2. Ordinal Variables
A discrete ordinal variable is a nominal variable, but its different states are
ordered in a meaningful sequence. Ordinal data has order, but the intervals
between scale points may be uneven. Because of lack of equal distances,
arithmetic operations are impossible, but logical operations can be performed on
the ordinal data. A typical example of an ordinal variable is the socio-economic
status of families. We know 'upper middle' is higher than 'middle' but we cannot
say 'how much higher'. Ordinal variables are quite useful for subjective
assessment of 'quality; importance or relevance'. Ordinal scale data are very
frequently used in social and behavioral research. Almost all opinion surveys
today request answers on three-, five-, or seven- point scales. Such data are not
appropriate for analysis by classical techniques, because the numbers are
comparable only in terms of relative magnitude, not actual magnitude.
Consider for example a questionnaire item on the time involvement of scientists in
the 'perception and identification of research problems'. The respondents were
asked to indicate their involvement by selecting one of the following codes:
5 = Very great





Here, the variable 'Time Involvement' is an ordinal variable with 5 states.

Ordinal variables often cause confusion in data analysis. Some statisticians treat
them as nominal variables. Other statisticians treat them as interval scale
variables, assuming that the underlying scale is continuous, but because of the
lack of a sophisticated instrument, they could not be measured on an interval


Dummy Variables from Quantitative Variables

A quantitative variable can be transformed into a categorical variable, called a
dummy variable by recoding the values. Consider the following example: the
quantitative variable Age can be classified into five intervals. The values of the
associated categorical variable, called dummy variables, are 1, 2,3,4,5:

[Up to 25]

[25, 40 ]

[40, 50]

[50, 60]

[Above 60]

4. Preference Variables
Preference variables are specific discrete variables, whose values are either
in a decreasing or increasing order. For example, in a survey, a respondent
may be asked to indicate the importance of the following nine sources of
information in his research and development work, by using the code [1] for
the most important source and [9] for the least important source:

Literature published in the country

Literature published abroad
Scientific abstracts
Unpublished reports, material, etc.
Discussions with colleagues within the research unit
Discussions with colleagues outside the research unit but within institution
Discussions with colleagues outside the institution
Scientific meetings in the country

9. Scientific meetings abroad

Note that preference data are also ordinal. The interval distance from the first
preference to the second preference is not the same as, for example, from the sixth to
the seventh preference.
1. Multiple Response Variables
Multiple response variables are those, which can assume more than one value. A
typical example is a survey questionnaire about the use of computers in research.
The respondents were asked to indicate the purpose(s) for which they use
computers in their research work. The respondents could score more than one

Statistical analysis
Lab automation/ process control
Data base management, storage and retrieval
Modeling and simulation
Scientific and engineering calculations
Computer aided design (CAD)
Communication and networking

Since IDAMS does not handle multiple response variables, dummy variables have to be
created for each category prior to analysis.

Scientific methods
The scientific

method is


of techniques for

investigating phenomena,


new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method
of inquiry is commonly based on empirical or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of
reasoning. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as "a method or procedure
that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation,
measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.

The scientific method is an ongoing process, which usually begins

with observations about the natural world. Human beings are
naturally inquisitive, so they often come up with questions about
things they see or hear and often develop ideas (hypotheses) about
why things are the way they are. The best hypotheses lead to
predictions that can be tested in various ways, including making
further observations about nature. In general, the strongest tests
of hypotheses come from carefully controlled and replicated
experiments that gather empirical data. Depending on how well the
tests match the predictions, the original hypothesis may require
refinement, alteration, expansion or even rejection. If a particular
hypothesis becomes very well supported a general theory may be
developed. Although procedures vary from one field of inquiry to
another, identifiable features are frequently shared in common
between them. The overall process of the scientific method
involves making conjectures(hypotheses), deriving predictions from them
as logical consequences, and then carrying out experiments based
on those predictions. An hypothesis is a conjecture, based on knowledge
obtained while formulating the question. The hypothesis might be
very specific or it might be broad. Scientists then test hypotheses
by conducting experiments. Under modern interpretations, a scientific
hypothesis must be falsifiable, implying that it is possible to identify a
possible outcome of an experiment that conflicts with predictions
deduced from the hypothesis; otherwise, the hypothesis cannot be
meaningfully tested. The purpose of an experiment is to determine
whether observations agree with or conflict with the predictions
derived from a hypothesis. Experiments can take place in a college
lab, on a kitchen table, at CERN's Large Hadron Collider, at the bottom of
an ocean, on Mars, and so on. There are difficulties in a formulaic
statement of method, however. Though the scientific method is
often presented as a fixed sequence of steps, it represents rather a
set of general principles. Not all steps take place in every scientific
inquiry (or to the same degree), and are not always in the same

Steps of the scientific method

The Scientific Method is an organized way of answering a science question. While
different teachers and scientists have different versions of the Scientific Method, here
are the typical six parts:


Purpose- What do you want to learn?


Research- Find out as much as you can.


Hypothesis- Try to predict the answer to the problem. Another term for hypothesis
is educated guess. This is usually stated like If I(do something) then(this will


Experiment- The fun part! Design a test or procedure to confirm or disprove your


Analysis- Record what happened during the experiment. Also known as data.


Conclusion- Review the data and check to see if your hypothesis was correct.

The scientific method is used all over the world every day to make new discoveries.