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Statistics Resources

This guide contains all of the ASC's statistics resources. If you do not see a topic, suggest it through the suggestion box on the Statistics home page.

What's a Variable?

Variable: a factor in a scientific experiment that may be subject to change

Now let's talk about what that means in practical terms. We can think of variables as the concepts/constructs of interest in research. Variables can be anything from tangible objects to more abstract ideas. Variables can be simple or they can be complex. In fact, the nature of what a variable is depends a lot on how that variable is defined and measured.

Operational Definition

This term, operational definition, refers to a set of specific procedures that the researcher is going to follow in order to measure a given variable. This description is pivotal in making abstract concepts more concrete and measurable. It also allows you to make comparisons across research that involves the same variables. Different operational definitions could explain differences in findings, for instance.

Examples

  1. The purpose of your study is to determine if teachers' job satisfaction has been impacted by varying health & safety guidelines that have been implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • The variables, or constructs of interest, here are "teachers' job satisfaction" and the "health & safety guidelines".
      • job satisfaction will be assessed using the Teacher Job Satisfaction Scale (TJSS) - you would further describe this survey and how it measures this construct in your paper
      • health & safety guidelines are defined as additional safety procedures that were put in place as a direct result of the COIVD-19 pandemic including mask requirements, social distancing, quarantining, and added classroom cleaning.
  2. What influence, if any, do economic activity and patriotism have on voting habits of eligible voters in the Midwest United States?
    • The variables in this study would be "economic activity," "patriotism," and "voting habits".
      • economic activity will be measured using the gross domestic product (GDP)
      • patriotism, or feelings of connectedness to one's country, will be measured using a 5-item Likert-type survey - you would further describe the questions in this survey
      • voting habits will be examined by exploring the proportion of registered voters that turn up to vote as well as the proportion of votes for each political party