Theoretical Reviews

literature reviews that are organized around a theme, topic, trends or issue

Academic writing

A formal way of presenting evidence in a clear, concise, focused and structured manner according to the conventions of the discipline.

Affinity diagramming

A technique to visually code data and establish relationships between them to discern themes and patterns.

Aims and scope

This will tell you what topics and concerns the journal is interested in. It will also provide information such as whether the journal is peer-reviewed, frequency of publications, types of readers (academic versus practice), speed of publication, and types of articles that are considered

Argumentative Reviews

selective examinations of the literature with the goal of supporting or refuting an argument, deeply embedded assumption or a philosophical problem already established in the literature.


the descriptives (usually sample size, mean, distribution etc.) or characteristics (e.g. gender, age, class, ethnicity) of participants/unit of observation

Axial coding

The process of finding relationships between codes and developing broader categories.

Bad data

Data with defects such as information acquired through erroneous or sufficiently low-quality collection methods, study designs, or sampling techniques.


words or statements that express your conviction about the validity of your statement(s)

Call for abstracts

A description of the themes at a conference and an invitation for your to indicate your interest in participating by submitting an abstract.

CARS Model

Create A Research Space or CARS is Swales' (1990) model for writing effective literature reviews involving determining the territory, establishing a niche and occupying the niche.

Chronological or Historical Reviews

undertakes a linear or progressive examination of the literature in the field over time.


The process of organizing data into categories so that it can be analyzed

concept mapping

A graphical representation of concepts and relationships between those concepts.

Concept Saturation

When sufficient studies discussing a concept are found in a literature search such that the research is unable to find new details, applications or meanings in relation to it. In other words, it is when a  concept or paper becomes too prevalent in your literature review.

Concept Tracing

Taking note of how often a paper or concept is mentioned in the literature review.


the practice of ensuring that the context under which data is collected is similar across all cases in the study.

constant comparative method

An aspect of grounded theory where a researcher sorts and organizes raw data into groups according to attributes to generate a new theory.

content analysis

A technique used to analyze the content and features of social artifacts often by identifying the presence of certain words, themes, or concepts.


In qualitative research, it is the process of enumerating or assigning numbers to data that is non-numerical

Coverage Error

Failure to include all components of the target population being studied, often arising from incomplete sampling frames.

Data analysis

The process of evaluating data and synthesizing them into a coherent manner in response to research question(s).

Data collection

The processes and procedures used to collect, measure and analyze data.


Where two or more experts in the field who hold clearly differing points of view exchange insights on a topic. The interaction is usually moderated by a chairperson with a prepared set of questions.

descriptive statistics

Description or summary of the characteristics of a sample.

discourse analysis

A qualitative analysis technique used to understand the meanings of language taking context into account.

discursive prose

prose which not only lists descriptions, but evaluates the evidence according to your research question

Edited Volume

A collection of scholarly or scientific works (chapters) written by different authors and compiled in a single source by an editor (e.g. a book).

Empirical studies

systematically observing social phenomena and or measuring constructs to demonstrate relationships among variables

Expert lectures

Formal presentations by an acknowledged expert in the field who will share conceptual or methodological innovations through a lecture followed by response to audience questions

field notes

A record of the measurements, reflections, concerns, and other observations made by a researcher.

framework analysis

Uses preconceived categories, grids or matrices to determine patterns from the data.

Frequency distributions

Representations, either in a graphical or tabular format, that displays the number of observations.


The ambiguities, faults, and missing aspects of the established literature.


The ability to make inferences (broad statements) about the population from which the sample is drawn.


the agreed upon forms (the how’s) that a community believes best achieves their goals


What one hopes to achieve by answering the research question.

grounded theory

A method of generating hypotheses and theories through the process of collecting and analyzing data.

Growth Mindset

Thinking of one’s work as “in progress”, continually being improved rather than complete.


refers to the boundary (hedges) we place around our argument (what it can and cannot speak for)

imposter syndrome

An extreme form of self-doubt, one in which you feel a constant sense of paranoia that you will be found out, that at any moment the act will be up

inferential statistics

Statistical procedures that allow researchers to draw inferences from the data, i.e., make predictions or deductions about the population from which the sample is drawn.


The tools used to obtain data (e.g., questionnaires, interviews etc.).

internal consistency

In data analysis refers to how reliable one’s coding scheme is and whether it actually measures the constructs as intended.

interpretive research

a paradigm that sees social reality as not singular or objective, but is rather shaped by human experiences and social contexts (ontology), and is therefore best studied within its socio-historic context by reconciling the subjective interpretations of its various participants (epistemology) –see Bhattacherjee (2012).


Relates to how one’s subjective interests link to others.


A talk that establishes a main underlying theme usually delivered by an expert.

Literature Review

An analytical summary of previous work on a topic. It describes, summarizes, clarifies and evaluates existing works as a means of understanding what is done or omitted in the field.

Macro schedule

Identifying and making plans to address goals that address milestone components in a project, usually over a relatively longer time horizon (e.g. monthly).

Matrix tables

A table which organizes your quotations under broad themes (in the columns) and cases (in the rows) to allow for easy comparison.

Measurement errors

When the response provided differs from the real value; such errors may be attributable to the respondent, the interviewer, the questionnaire, the collection method or the respondent's record-keeping system (OECD, 2013).


the process of documenting ideas about concepts and their theoretically coded relationships as they evolve during the research process.

Methodological Reviews

focus primarily on the different ways that a phenomenon have been studied

Micro schedule

Identifying and making plans to address goals that address small tasks in a project, usually over a relatively shorter time horizon (e.g. weekly or daily).

Non-response errors

Occurs when a researcher fails to get a response to at least one of the questions on an instrument.


Questions about whether the paper advancing new knowledge or an original contribution to the field


A further elaboration on goals i.e., details about the steps that will be taken to achieve the goal.

Open access

The practice of distributing research outputs and other scholarships online, free of access charges or other barriers.

Open coding

The first stage in grounded theory where bits of information are assigned labels purely based on the data being analyzed


The process of defining how one is going to measure a phenomenon that is not directly measurable.

Oral presentation

Where one or more speakers (joint-presenters) share research results, completed works, innovative concepts, theoretical application, methodologies or tools.


the practice of sketching out the main points and sub-points (or arguments) and the supporting evidence that will be provided.

Panel presentation

Where multiple speakers present their perspectives, ideas or research on a common theme or issue.

Pearson's correlation coefficient or Pearson’s r

A measure of the linear relationship between variables (commonly used in regressions).


Evaluation of scientific, academic work by others working in the same field


The way that one’s position in the social hierarchy potentially shapes his/her/their identity and mediates access to power, opportunities and understandings of others.

positionality statements

is a description of an author’s identity, social location, experiences, influences, and philosophy concerning an issue.

Poster presentation

A visual representation of your research through text, charts, graphs, and other visual aids on a poster.

predatory journals

Exploitative academic publishing business models that involve charging fees to authors while failing to perform rigorous review to uphold quality and integrity of scholarship.

Primary research

Research that collects and derives its own raw data by sampling participants or cases, such as selecting and interviewing respondents.


The activities that a researcher takes to collect data.

quality data

The data that are fit for their intended purpose, and have a close relationship with the construct they are intended to measure.


A statement outlining the reason that the researcher is conducting the study and a justification of the significance of the study.

recall bias

the bias that results when answers to certain questions are hard to recall

recruitment process

how you advertised the study, whether a stipend or incentive was offered, and how students finally agreed to join in the study


One’s ability to recognize, examine, react, and articulate his/her/their emotions, motives, and situation and articulate how external power relations influence research. 

Relational accountability

The sense of accountability that a researcher has to participants and their communities.


The notion that another researcher should be able to repeat your methods and find the same results (see replicable).


Refers to the ability to repeat a study’s method and produce the same results (see repeatable).

Research Ethics Board

A committee of experts who applies research ethics to prospective research by reviewing the ethics applications and methods to ensure that they meet ethical standards.

research paradigm

The common beliefs, preferences, and assumptions shared amongst a group of researchers

Sampling error

A statistical error arising from the failure to select a sample that fully represents the population. It is inevitable each time a sample is drawn.

sampling frame

A list of the items or people forming a population from which a sample is taken.


The extent to which a phenomena will be studied and the parameters within which the study is being conducted.

Secondary research

Uses data from other primary research projects, such as a systematic literature review of other research.

Selective coding

The identification of core categories that captures the essence of the data and relating them to the rest of the data, i.e., developing overarching categories.


Acts of attending to one’s physical, emotional, mental and other needs.


Excessive or unrestrained gratification of one's own appetites, desires, or whims.


Extreme lack of attention to one’s mental, emotional and physical needs.

signal words

words used to convey transitions between different ideas in your paper e.g., ‘however’, ‘furthermore’ etc.


Goal setting technique to ensure that your plans are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound, engaging and rewarding (see MacLeod, 2012).

social artifacts

things created by humans e.g., books, graffiti, advertisements, photographs, blogs etc.

social desirability bias

the tendency not to disclose “anti-social” information about oneself and others –is common in primary data collection. Similarly, recall bias –the bias that results when answers to certain questions are hard to recall

Social problems

The conditions, events, behaviors, or actions that either disrupt society or negatively impact many people.


Tools for charting the relationships and visually representing the social links and preferences of individuals.

sociological imagination

The practice of locating individuals' private troubles and their intersection with the social structural, political and historical context that shapes their experiences.

Spearman’s rho or Spearman's ρ

A nonparametric measure of the relationship between variables, and is useful when variables are measured on scales that are at least ordinal.


When the data obtained is able to address the research question in an unbiased manner.

survey research

A research method involving sample data collected via questionnaires or interviews in a systematic manner.

Systematic Review

provide an overview of existing evidence (findings) as they relate to the research question of interest, drawing on previously published empirical observations, noting their methods, findings and analyses.

Systematic reviews

Provides an overview of existing evidence (findings) as they relate to the research question of interest, drawing on previously published empirical observations, noting their methods, findings and analyses.

Template coding

Refers to the coding of data using predetermined categories i.e., based on a template.

Theoretical research

Uses other papers and articles, sometimes even other data (like secondary research), but with the purpose of advancing a new argument in the field.

Theoretical sampling

A process of data collection where the researcher simultaneously collects, codes and analyses data, which informs decisions about the next steps in data collection. The aim is to generate theory from the process.

Theoretical saturation

Refers to when additional data fails to yield any significant change in the core categories or the relationships (see Bhattacherjee, 2012).

Theoretical studies

Entails testing, exploring or developing arguments or theories based on observations or the compilation of information.

Theoretical theses

focused on the selection of social artifacts, ideas, theories and other secondary data to make an argument or to critique, expand, evaluate, compare or make applications of a theory(ies).

Thick descriptions

Details of the contexts of behaviors and actions as interpreted by actors so that outsiders can have a better understanding of them.

Time Management

The process of determining needs, setting goals to achieve these needs, and prioritizing and planning tasks required to achieve these goals

verbatim transcripts

word-for-word reproduction of verbal data, where the written words are an exact replication of the audio recorded words.


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Practicing and Presenting Social Research Copyright © 2022 by Oral Robinson and Alexander Wilson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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