Comm Eye Health Vol. 20 No. 61 2007 pp 17. Published online 01 March 2007.

Glossary: research and training

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Case-control study: a study in which people who already have a certain condition are compared with people who do not

Cross-sectional study: a study in which a population or sample is assessed at one point in time

Curriculum (pl. curricula): the subjects taught in a course of study (e.g. an MSc in community eye health)

Dissertation: a long, written essay or report describing research that is submitted as a requirement for an advanced academic degree; also called a thesis

Endemic: describes a disease that is constantly present, to a greater or lesser degree, in a population living in a particular area

Ethical approval: independent review of the scientific merit and implications of a study regarding the dignity, rights, safety, and wellbeing of research participants

Field work: research done in the real world (i.e. not in a laboratory)

Focus group discussion (FGD): a qualitative method to obtain in-depth information on concepts and perceptions about a certain topic through spontaneous group discussion of approximately 6-12 persons, guided by a facilitator

Incidence: the number of deaths or new cases of a condition, symptom, or injury that arises during a specific period of time, such as a year

In-depth interview: a face-to-face conversation to explore issues; conducted without using a structured questionnaire

Literature review: a summary and explanation of key studies relevant to a proposed project

Logbook: a notebook used to record the dates when decisions were made or actions were taken

Methodology: the precise design of a study, including the methods used

Multi-stage cluster sampling: constructing a sample from a population by first creating and selecting clusters (stage one), and then choosing elements from within the selected clusters (stage two)

Narrative data: verbal answers that take the form of a story or explanation, or which describe a series of events

Pilot study: a smaller version or trial run of a larger study that is conducted in preparation for that study; can involve pre-testing or ‘trying out’ a research tool such as a data-collecting form

Population: the group being studied, e.g. children of school age in Zimbabwe

Population-based survey: a survey where the sample is representative of the population being studied

Prevalence: a measure of the frequency of a disease or condition at a particular point in time, usually expressed as the number of cases per 100 people examined

Prospective study: a study in which events or cases are observed or studied as they occur, or in which human subjects are identified and followed forward in time

References: a short note detailing the source of information or a quoted passage

Reflexivity: an awareness of the researcher’s contribution to the construction of meanings throughout the research process, and an acknowledgment of the impossibility of remaining ‘outside of’ one’s subject matter while conducting research

Research protocol: a document describing in detail how a research study is to be conducted in practice, including the methodology, a plan for analysing the results, and a budget

Research question: the main question a research project aims to answer

Retrospective data/study: a study that looks at events that took place in the past; can involve extracting information from medical records or interviewing patients about past events or behaviour

Sample: a group of people or elements selected from the population being studied

Supervisor: the person who is responsible for guiding the individual(s) doing a research project

Variable: a broad term encompassing what is measured in a research project; demographic variables, for example, describe participants’ age, sex, and socioeconomic status; outcome variables might include visual acuity after cataract surgery or the number of people accessing services after a health education intervention.