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Research Glossary

The research glossary defines terms used in conducting social science and policy research, for example those describing methods, measurements, statistical procedures, and other aspects of research; the child care glossary defines terms used to describe aspects of child care and early education practice and policy.

Data Imputation
A method used to fill in missing values (due to nonresponse) in surveys. The method is based on careful analysis of patterns of missing data. Types of data imputation include mean imputation, multiple imputation, hot deck and cold deck imputation. Data imputation is done to allow for statistical analysis of surveys that were only partially completed.
Data Reduction
Data reduction is the process of transforming numerical or alphabetical digital information into a corrected, ordered, and simplified form. The basic concept is the reduction of large amounts of data down to the meaningful parts.
The process of reasoning from the more general to the more specific.
Deductive Method
A method of study that begins with a theory and the generation of a hypothesis that can be tested through the collection of data, and ultimately lead to the confirmation (or lack thereof) of the original theory.
Degrees of Freedom
The number of independent units of information in a sample used in the estimation of a parameter or calculation of a statistic. The degrees of freedom limits the number variables that can be included in a statistical model. Models with similar explanatory power, but more degrees of freedom are generally preferred because they offer a simpler explanation.
Delphi Survey Method
The Delphi survey method is used when a researcher is interested in collecting opinions from a group of experts but wishes to limit the undue influence of participants upon one another (the members of the group are unknown to each other and questionnaires are often distributed via email). Both qualitative and quantitative research methods can be used in a Delphi survey. The experts answer questions in two or more rounds. After each round, a summary of the experts' responses is prepared by a member of the research team with expertise in the area(s) of inquiry and the questions the group is asked to respond to are revised.
Dependent Variable
The outcome variable. A dependent variable is something that depends on other factors. Researchers often try to find out what causes changes in the dependent variable. For example, in a study of factors associated with children's scores on standardized tests, children's scores would be the dependent variable.
Descriptive Statistics
Basic statistics used to describe and summarize data. Descriptive statistics generally include measures of the average values of variables (mean, median, and mode) and measures of the dispersion of variables (variance, standard deviation, or range).
Dichotomous Variables
Variables that have only two categories, such as whether a child is enrolled in a preschool program or not.
Differential Attrition
Differential or selective attrition occurs when the rates of dropping out or leaving a study with several data collection waves (e.g., longitudinal study or experimental research) vary across different study groups. This is particularly troublesome when the characteristics of those who drop out are systematically different from those who remain, and may introduce bias in the study findings.
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