What Does the Term “Variable” Mean in Research?

What Does the Term “Variable” Mean in Research?


When conducting experiments in scientific research, scientists, technicians, and researchers use a variety of methods and variables. A variable is a measurable attribute that changes or varies across the experiment, whether comparing results between multiple groups, multiple people, or even a single person in a time-based experiment. There are six common variable types in total.

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TL;DR (Too lengthy; did not read)

Variables are measurable characteristics that can change during the course of a scientific experiment. There are six different types of variables: dependent, independent, intervening, moderator, controlled, and extraneous variables.

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Several Complex Variables (Mathematical Sciences Research Institute Publications, Series Number 37)

Longitudinal Research with Latent Variables 2010th Edition, Kindle Edition

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Variables that are independent and dependent

In general, experiments change one variable, the independent variable, on purpose. The dependent variable, on the other hand, is one that changes in direct response to the independent variable. Assume an experiment is being conducted to determine whether changing the position of an ice cube affects its ability to melt. The independent variable is the change in position of an ice cube. The dependent variable is whether or not the ice cube melts.

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Variables that intervene and moderators

Intervening variables connect the independent and dependent variables, but they are not directly observable during the experiment because they are abstract processes. For example, if you are researching the effectiveness of a specific teaching technique, the technique is the independent variable, the completion of the technique’s objectives by the study participants is the dependent variable, and the actual processes used internally by the students to learn the subject matter are the intervening variables.
Moderator variables influence the relationship between the independent and dependent variables by modifying the effect of the intervening variables – the unseen processes. The moderator variables are measured and taken into account by the researchers during the experiment.

Variable that is constant or controllable

Certain characteristics of the objects under examination are sometimes purposefully left unchanged. These are known as controlled variables or constant variables. One constant or controllable variable in the ice cube experiment could be the cube’s size and shape. Because the ice cubes all started out the same size and shape, it’s easier to measure the differences between the cubes as they melt after shifting positions.

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Excessive Variables

An experiment that is well-designed eliminates as many unmeasured extraneous variables as possible. This makes observing the relationship between the independent and dependent variables easier. Extraneous variables, also known as unforeseen factors, can have an impact on how experimental results are interpreted. The unforeseen factors in the experiment are represented by lurking variables, which are a subset of extraneous variables.

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Another type of lurking variable is the confounding variable, which can render the experiment’s results useless or invalid. Sometimes a confounding variable is a variable that was not previously considered. The experimental results are skewed because the confounding variable’s influence is unknown. For example, suppose the ice-cube experiment was conducted on a salted road, but the experimenters were unaware of the salt and sprinkled unevenly, causing some ice cubes to melt faster. Because the salt influenced the results of the experiment, it is both a lurking variable and a confounding variable.

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