correlation coefficient

(noun) In statistical analysis, a standardized measure of the covariance between two variables expressed between -1 and +1. The sign of the coefficient indicates the direction of the relationship while the magnitude is indicated by the value of the coefficient with 0 indicating absolutely no correlation and a value of ±1 indicating perfect correlation.

Example: A correlation coefficient of -.85 indicates a strong negative correlation between two variables.

Audio Pronunciation: (cor·re·la·tion co·ef·fi·cient)

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Usage Notes:

  • Plural: correlation coefficients
  • The most common test for correlation is the Pearson product-movement correlation (commonly referred to as Pearson correlation) which tests the linear correlation between two variables where data approximates interval level characteristics.
  • Pearson correlation produces a correlation coefficient, Pearson’s r, which is an absolute measure of the strength of association between two variables as they approximate a linear relationship. The value of the coefficient can range from -1 to +1. When r = 0; the two variables have no linear relationship. While the size and sign of the coefficient are important, the coefficient must also be statistically significant for a relationship between two variables to be considered present in the data.
  • Correlation forms the basis of regression analysis. Regression allows for the effects of additional variables to be considered in the relationship of x on y.
  • Also called:
    • coefficient of association
    • coefficient of correlation
  • Correlation coefficient used in a sentence: The negative correlation coefficient is also significant, indicating that scores on one variable are inversely associated with scores on the second variable.

Additional Information:

Related Terms: 

Contributor: C. E. Seaman

Works Consulted

Babbie, Earl. 2013. The Practice of Social Research. 13th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Bryman, Alan. 2012. Social Research Methods. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Burdess, Neil. 2010. Starting Statistics: A Short, Clear Guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Cramer, Duncan, and Dennis Howitt. 2004. The SAGE Dictionary of Statistics: A Practical Resource for Students in the Social Sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Farlex. (N.d.) Dictionary, Encyclopedia and Thesaurus. Farlex. (

Ferrante, Joan. 2011. Sociology: A Global Perspective. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Fioramonti, Lorenzo. 2014. How Numbers Rule the World: The Use and Abuse of Statistics in Global Politics. London: Zed Books.

Larson, Ron, and Elizabeth Farber. 2015. Elementary Statistics: Picturing the World. 6th ed. Boston: Pearson.

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (

Salkind, Neil J., ed. 2007. Encyclopedia of Measurement and Statistics. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Taylor & Francis. (N.d.) Routledge Handbooks Online. (

Weinstein, Jay A. 2010. Applying Social Statistics: An Introduction to Quantitative Reasoning in Sociology. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (

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How to Cite the Definition of Correlation Coefficient

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Seaman, C. E. 2015. “correlation coefficient.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary, edited by Kenton Bell. Retrieved December 16, 2018 (

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

Seaman, C. E. (2015). correlation coefficient. In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Seaman, C. E. 2015. “correlation coefficient.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary, edited by Kenton Bell. Accessed December 16, 2018.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

Seaman, C. E. “correlation coefficient.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2015. Web. 16 Dec. 2018. <>.