What are Examples of Variables in Research?

In the course of writing your thesis, one of the first terms that you encounter is the word variable. Failure to understand the meaning and the usefulness of variables in your study will prevent you from doing good research. What then are variables and how do you use variables in your study? I explain the concept below with lots of examples on variables commonly used in research.

You may find it difficult to understand just what variables are in the context of research especially those that deal with quantitative data analysis. This initial difficulty about variables becomes much more confusing when you encounter the phrases “dependent variable” and “independent variable” as you go deeper in studying this important concept of research as well as statistics.

Understanding what variables mean is crucial in writing your thesis proposal because you will need these in constructing your conceptual framework and in analyzing the data that you have gathered. Therefore, it is a must that you should be able to grasp thoroughly the meaning of variables and ways on how to measure them. Yes, the variables should be measurable so that you will be able to use your data for statistical analysis.

I will strengthen your understanding by providing examples of phenomena and their corresponding variables below.

Definition of Variables and Examples

Variables are those simplified portions of the complex phenomena that you intend to study. The word variable is derived from the root word “vary”, meaning, changing in amount, volume, number, form, nature or type. These variables should be measurable, i.e., they can be counted or subjected to a scale.

The following examples of phenomena from a global to a local perspective. The corresponding list of variables is given to provide a clear illustration of how complex phenomena can be broken down into manageable pieces for better understanding and to subject the phenomena to research.

  • Phenomenon: climate change

Examples of variables related to climate change:

  1. sea level
  2. temperature
  3. the amount of carbon emission
  4. the amount of rainfall
  • Phenomenon: Crime and violence in the streets

Examples of variables related to crime and violence:

  1. number of robberies
  2. number of attempted murders
  3. number of prisoners
  4. number of crime victims
  5. number of laws enforcers
  6. number of convictions
  7. number of car napping incidents
  • Phenomenon: poor performance of students in college entrance exams

Examples of variables related to poor academic performance:

  1. entrance exam score
  2. number of hours devoted to studying
  3. student-teacher ratio
  4. number of students in the class
  5. educational attainment of teachers
  6. teaching style
  7. the distance of school from home
  8. number of hours devoted by parents in providing tutorial support
  • Phenomenon: Fishkill

Examples of variables related to fish kill:

  1. dissolved oxygen
  2. water salinity
  3. temperature
  4. age of fish
  5. presence or absence of parasites
  6. presence or absence of heavy metal
  7. stocking density
  • Phenomenon: Poor crop growth

Examples of variables related to poor crop growth:

  1. the amount of nitrogen in the soil
  2. the amount of phosphorous in the soil
  3. the amount of potassium in the ground
  4. the amount of rainfall
  5. frequency of weeding
  6. type of soil
  7. temperature
Arid land
Poor crop growth in the arid soil of a hill in an island.

Notice in the above examples of variables that all of them can be counted or measured using a scale. The expected values derived from these variables will, therefore, be in terms of numbers, amount, category or type. Quantified variables allow statistical analysis. Variable correlations or differences are then determined.

Difference Between Independent and Dependent Variables

Which of the above examples of variables are the independent and the dependent variables? The independent variables are just those variables that may influence or affect the other variable, i.e., the dependent variable.

For example, in the first phenomenon of climate change, temperature (independent variable) may influence sea level (dependent variable). Increased temperature will cause expansion of water in the sea. Thus, sea level rise on a global scale may occur. In the second phenomenon, i.e., crime and violence in the streets, the independent variable may be the number of law enforcers and the dependent variable is the number of robberies.

I will leave to you the other variables so you can figure out how this works.

How will you know that one variable may cause the other to behave in a certain way? Finding the relationship between variables require a thorough review of the literature. Through a review of the relevant and reliable literature, you will be able to find out which variables influence the other variable. You do not just simply guess relationships between variables. The whole process is the essence of research.

At this point, I believe that the concept of the variable is now clear to you. Share this information to your peers who may have difficulty in understanding what the variables are in research.

©2012 October 22 P. A. Regoniel

Cite this article as: Regoniel, Patrick A. (October 22, 2012). What are Examples of Variables in Research?. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from http://simplyeducate.me/2012/10/22/what-are-examples-of-variables-in-research/

63 thoughts on “What are Examples of Variables in Research?”

  1. Thank you, I am struggling with trying to develop a conceptual framework for my future dissertation, this article was a lot easier to understand than my text books!

  2. In the last line of the second paragraph under “Difference betw indep and dep variables” you didn’t finish your edit, sooooooo take a look again, do you want to talk about crime or student success?

    And thank you for writing these simplified explanations, I’m ready to tackle my proposal again, with renewed confidence!

    1. wow! information made simple! Finally I get a clear understanding of what variable means. I am also able to differentiate between the two. What a relief!
      Thank You very much

  3. Thanks for the explanation. I’ll really appreciate more if you can elaborate the roles variables play in research. Thank you.

  4. Great explanation! easy to understand,this article can help me a lot for my report about conceptual framework and research study. Now I understand what variable means, as well as the difference between independent and dependent variable. Thank you so much!

  5. The problem of DVs and IVs above is that they can be either. Example given is temperature being the IV and sea level being the DV. However, temperature can also be the DV if carbon emissions are the IV. Equally, carbon emissions can be the DV if car sales are the IV…

  6. You’re right Gabe. Independent variables may be the dependent variables. The objectives of the study will define which one/s is/are the DV or the IV. In modeling ecosystems, if either of the variables could influence the other, these are called feedback loops.

    1. Patrick,
      Thank you for this article. I really appreciate your efforts and your way of explaining it. Very simple but extremely meaningful. As I was reading the climate change sample, I was asking myself where are the DV and IV, and then whether the temperature would be listed under the DV or IV. I was going to ask that question but I am glad that Gabe asked it and you answered it perfectly.

  7. I, with all my experience in research, would not put the explanation in such a plain, understandable way. kudos
    Someone else explain statistics in the same plain language.

  8. I am so pleased and impressed with this article that I am here redoing my framework for my dissertation. Most of the time tutors don’t explain this way and I think it is just great.

  9. Dear Martin, great to hear your feedback! I’m happy to know my article helped you in your research venture. Let’s discover things for a better world. Share the information to your friends who may have difficulty along this concern.

  10. Dear Alvisswe,

    I am not quite clear about your question. If you mean that you should include the two variables in your thesis title, that will be desirable. It gives the reader an idea about what you are investigating right there in the title.

  11. I have been trying all these years to come out with research proposal for a doctoral programme with great difficulty. It’s like groping in the dark looking for a needle in a haystack. At a point I wanted to give up on the PhD programme. Your presentation has been fantastic. It wouldn’t have come at the right time. It’s a WOW! Very useful.
    Can I please have your email?

  12. My project topic is Extra judicial killings and involvement of military forces,how do i go about drawing my theoritical framework and what variables best suits

  13. My project topic is Extra judicial killings and involvement of military forces,how do i go about drawing my conceptual framework and what variables best suits

  14. I was considering to enroll in statistics course to equip me in my consultancy work (socio-economic studies), found this site very informative, I need to really study though.

  15. hi! What if there are more than the independent and dependent variable? How are we going to describe the other variable? For example A influence B then B gives impact to C.. Please help..

  16. hi help me my research is about personnel empowerment and local government quality service what will be my conceptual frame work ???

  17. My topic is : emplementing word processing in high school to improve students writing skills. Now, can you tell me what would be my variables? please.

  18. Dear Eliseu, so why do you think word processing can improve students’ writing skills? Do you mean spell or grammar checks in MS word? You need to define your variable, as this article defines it.

  19. Thank you so much. I have been struggling with the concept of variables. Now you have solved my problem. Thanks

  20. I appreciate the effort made in explaining the key variables with some relevant examples. However, there are still more to explain with regards to other variables such as: moderating variable, intervening variable, extraneous variables, mediating variable and confounding variable. If these can be explained with good examples especially in social researches, then a ot will have been done.

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