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Dependent and Independent Variables

  • In: Encyclopedia of Epidemiology
  • Edited by: Sarah Boslaugh
  • Subject:Public Health (general), Public Health Research Methods , Epidemiology & Biostatistics

One of the fundamental distinctions in medical and epidemiological research is that between independent and dependent variables. In the simplest sense, the dependent variable is the result or outcome being studied and the independent variables are factors that are assumed to exert an influence on it. These basic concepts are very simple but can become confusing in practice, particularly since different researchers use different terms for the same concept. In addition, because some researchers believe that the terms independent and dependent variable imply a causal relationship, they prefer to use one set of terms for experimental research (where it is possible to hypothesize causality) and another for observational research (where due to the number of uncontrolled influences on the outcome, some researchers prefer to speak ...

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