Struggling to understand what my variables are

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invisiblegirl04
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#1
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So I know this sounds really stupid, but I've never understood "variables". I honestly am not quite sure how I've got to a post-grad level without understanding the concept especially as I know its so basic, but I just don't.
I'm doing my post-grad dissertation and know exactly what I'm doing and what I'm looking for and what I'll do for my data collection ect, and in my supervisor meeting my supervisor said I need to think about and decide what my variables are are let her know next time, except I don't understand this concept at all and didn't want to seem like a complete idiot and ask her. So I'm hoping someone here can help me understand the concept I guess so when I next meet with her I can clearly say "these are my variables" because I like say, I know what I'm looking for for my research, I know how I'm going to data collect and do analysis, I just don't actually know what my variables are, because I don't know what a variable is.
Obviously I'm aware this sounds stupid, as it's something taught in school but I've just never understood it. I've always gotten by with a teacher or lecturer saying "these are your variables" for me. I've asked people around me to try and explain, but it hasn't made sense to me and neither has anything when I've googled what they are/what it means either.
So yeah, hoping someone can explain it differently so I understand!
Thanks in advance
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jessmd05
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my tutor made up a thing called 'chin mode' idk how to explain it so i drew it out, hope it helps (note i dont think it mentioned control so i tried to explain it?) hope u can see the image
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SagaciousSag
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Independent = cause. What do you change in the experiment to produce results? Dependent = effect. What changes in the experiment? The independent is usually on the x-axis and the dependent variable on the y-axis. Easiest way to remember (for me at least) is "independent = cause" and "dependent = effect".

Edit: misread. Variables are factors in an experiment that influence or affect the final result. That's how I would describe it.
Last edited by SagaciousSag; 1 month ago
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invisiblegirl04
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(Original post by jessmd05)
my tutor made up a thing called 'chin mode' idk how to explain it so i drew it out, hope it helps (note i dont think it mentioned control so i tried to explain it?) hope u can see the image
I could see it, and thats actually really cool!
Thanks for this
What I seem to struggle understanding is how its something you "change" because I feel like I'm not actually changing anything? Like I'm doing a questionnaire, and then I'm going to compare things based on that, eg the difference between males and females and someone explained to me that gender would therefore be a variable but I'm not changing anyones gender?
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invisiblegirl04
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(Original post by SagaciousSag)
Independent = cause. What do you change in the experiment to produce results? Dependent = effect. What changes in the experiment? The independent is usually on the x-axis and the dependent variable on the y-axis. Easiest way to remember (for me at least) is "independent = cause" and "dependent = effect".

Edit: misread. Variables are factors in an experiment that influence or affect the final result. That's how I would describe it.
thank you for this
oooo okay I think that makes sense. so for example if I was doing something like looking into what kind of people become engineers, and I looked at gender, age, education as factors, they will therefore be my variables - is that right?
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SagaciousSag
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(Original post by invisiblegirl04)
thank you for this
oooo okay I think that makes sense. so for example if I was doing something like looking into what kind of people become engineers, and I looked at gender, age, education as factors, they will therefore be my variables - is that right?
Yes, that would be correct.
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KirstinTM
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(Original post by invisiblegirl04)
I could see it, and thats actually really cool!
Thanks for this
What I seem to struggle understanding is how its something you "change" because I feel like I'm not actually changing anything? Like I'm doing a questionnaire, and then I'm going to compare things based on that, eg the difference between males and females and someone explained to me that gender would therefore be a variable but I'm not changing anyones gender?
You’re not changing their gender but you’re changing your sample pool. It’s something that varies between your samples and therefore your experiment, and the variable ‘gender’ would then be something you can use to see if responses change significantly because of this one difference. If they change significantly (what you measure) then you’d say that gender is a likely cause and isn’t an irrelevant variable. Feel free to correct me, I’m only a first year undergrad, but I think this is right.
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jessmd05
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(Original post by invisiblegirl04)
I could see it, and thats actually really cool!
Thanks for this
What I seem to struggle understanding is how its something you "change" because I feel like I'm not actually changing anything? Like I'm doing a questionnaire, and then I'm going to compare things based on that, eg the difference between males and females and someone explained to me that gender would therefore be a variable but I'm not changing anyones gender?
i did a biology exam today, and one of the questions was about concentration in potatoes so i'm gonna use that: 4 potato slices cut the same size(control variable) are put in different concentrated salt solutions(independent variable) and then the mass is measured(dependent variable) so its because of osmosis and all that blah blah... but the thing is, the example you used is a little more difficult as two genders are difficult to compare together but i see it as changing a part of an experiment to see how it affects the results
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invisiblegirl04
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(Original post by SagaciousSag)
Yes, that would be correct.
awesome that makes complete sense thank you so much!
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invisiblegirl04
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(Original post by KirstinTM)
You’re not changing their gender but you’re changing your sample pool. It’s something that varies between your samples and therefore your experiment, and the variable ‘gender’ would then be something you can use to see if responses change significantly because of this one difference. If they change significantly (what you measure) then you’d say that gender is a likely cause and isn’t an irrelevant variable. Feel free to correct me, I’m only a first year undergrad, but I think this is right.
yeah i think that makes sense thank you so much! (hope youre first year has gone well too!)
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invisiblegirl04
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(Original post by jessmd05)
i did a biology exam today, and one of the questions was about concentration in potatoes so i'm gonna use that: 4 potato slices cut the same size(control variable) are put in different concentrated salt solutions(independent variable) and then the mass is measured(dependent variable) so its because of osmosis and all that blah blah... but the thing is, the example you used is a little more difficult as two genders are difficult to compare together but i see it as changing a part of an experiment to see how it affects the results
i hope it went well!
and thank you for this!
yeah see thats more of an experiment which isnt what im doing. the example i gave isnt what im doing either, but its pretty similar. i think thats why ive been getting confused because what youre saying in your example makes complete sense, but because im not doing an experiment and/or changing anything, ive found it hard to relate the terminology
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