Definitions of Variable
- (noun) A set of attributes or values.
- (noun) Any characteristic, number, or quantity that can vary among a sample or population that can be measured.
- (noun) A symbol like X or Y that represents a measurable characteristic.
Types of Variable
- American English – /vAIR-ee-uh-buhl/
- British English – /vEUH-riuh-buhl/
International Phonetic Alphabet
- American English – /ˈvɛriəbəl/
- British English – /ˈvɛːrɪəb(ə)l/
- Plural: variables
- A variable is either categorical or numerical.
- A variable is contrasted with a constant, which is a characteristic or value that does not change.
- A variable must be observable and measurable to be studied, this is achieved through operationalization.
- Also called variable quantity.
- Variables are (adjective) variable and vary (adverb) variably by exhibiting (noun) variableness and (noun) variability.
- “Experiments are designed to create ‘real-life’ situations, ideally under controlled circumstances, in which the influence of different variables can be modified and measured” (Kendall 2006:34).
- “Reductionism of any type tends to suggest that particular units of analysis or variables are more relevant than others. Suppose we ask what caused the American Revolution. Was it a shared commitment to the value of individual liberty? The economic plight of the colonies in relation to Britain? The megalomania of the founders? As soon as we inquire about the single cause, we run the risk of reductionism. If we were to regard shared values as the cause of the American Revolution, our unit of analysis would be the individual colonist. An economist, though, might choose the 13 colonies as units of analysis and examine the economic organizations and conditions of each. A psychologist might choose individual leaders as the units of analysis for purposes of examining their personalities” (Babbie 2011:109).
- Quantitative Research Resources – Books, Journals, and Helpful Links
- Word origin of “variable” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
- control group
- random sample
- statistical analysis
Contributor: C. E. Seaman
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Burdess, Neil. 2010. Starting Statistics: A Short, Clear Guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
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Cite the Definition of Variable
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Seaman, C. E. 2015. “variable.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary, edited by Kenton Bell. Retrieved June 5, 2023 (https://sociologydictionary.org/variable/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
Seaman, C. E. (2015). variable. In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/variable/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Seaman, C. E. 2015. “variable.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary, edited by Kenton Bell. Accessed June 5, 2023. https://sociologydictionary.org/variable/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
Seaman, C. E. “variable.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2015. Web. 5 Jun. 2023. <https://sociologydictionary.org/variable/>.