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What Is a Dependent Variable? - Definition & Explanation

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  • 0:01 Dependent Variable Defined
  • 0:32 Research Examples
  • 3:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica McCallister

Jessica has a Doctorate degree in Social Work

The two types of variables in research are the dependent and independent variable. Use this lesson to learn more about the dependent variable so that you can develop good research questions and conduct appropriate social research.

Dependent Variables Defined

There are two different kinds of variables: dependent variables and independent variables. In this lesson we will explore both variables as one cannot adequately be understood without explanation of the other.

The 'dependent' variable cannot change or grow unless something else is happening or influencing it. What might be influencing the dependent variable is the 'independent variable.' The independent variable can stand alone all by itself and does not require anything else to happen in order for change or growth to occur.

Research Examples

Scientific research is conducted quite often in sciences fields, such as sociology, psychology, medicine, nursing, etc. The scientific method is used to conduct the research and requires that you develop a research inquiry and then devise a plan to test that inquiry by using variables. In order to more fully understand the scientific research method, you must first understand that the researcher always aims to learn more about something, discover a new concept or theory, uncover a new process or helpful procedure, or identify trends and themes.

The variables play an important part in determining the answer to the questions being asked in any research that employs the scientific method. The variables can be many different things based on the research questions that are created by the researcher or what the researcher is aiming to explore.

Let's say that a researcher has become interested in exploring how community members' income is affected by their age. Researchers may ask a question such as: 'Does age affect the income levels of the members living in this community?' They may also be interested to explore the range of careers the community members have acquired and if those careers primarily require a higher education degree, so they may ask: 'Does the educational levels of the community members have any bearing on their career levels?'

These are simple examples of research questions that involve both dependent and independent variables. Let's take a closer look at the variables in both questions.

The first question: Does age affect the income levels of the members living in this community?

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