The Language Of Research
Faunalytics walks an interesting line in our day-to-day work. We present original and external research on animal issues to help advocates be more effective. In doing so, we want to appeal to the broadest range of animal advocates as possible, which includes everyone from PhDs to professional advocates with some research background to people with no research experience at all. What makes this challenging, more than anything else, comes down to one thing: language.
Every field has its own jargon, and scientific research is no exception. Jargon is very important — it allows people within a given field to have their own shorthand, to understand each other more quickly, and to efficiently name concepts that may not exist outside of the field itself. However, jargon can also be exclusionary, as it excludes those who don’t understand the terminology being used, and all of a sudden find themselves completely left out of the conversation as it flies way over their heads.
One of the problems of jargon is that it can sometimes sound like the same words we already intuitively understand. This leads us to believe we understand something we’re reading when we really don’t. Take, for example, the term “significance.”
In common usage, significant means “sufficiently great or important to be worthy of attention; noteworthy.” It’s a word we usually employ to mean something stands out and is worth paying attention to.
In a scientific research context, however, significant (and the related term statistically significant) does not mean something is important, only that it is unlikely to have occurred by chance. A significant result can be big or small, important or unimportant, but it is unlikely to be a fluke. In other words, if you ran the same study again, you would probably see a similar result—whether that is a difference between two groups, a correlation between two variables, or something else.
This is just one example of research language that can confuse a reader if they’re not familiar with the terminology. There are plenty of other terms that are more opaque, and harder for the average person to understand without a bit of help.
At Faunalytics, we believe research is for everyone. We also believe that it’s important to be as precise as possible in how we communicate research findings. Our Research Library includes thousands of studies and reports, which we do our best to summarize using accessible and easy-to-understand language. Sometimes, however, it’s not possible to boil down a nuanced scientific finding any further, and the use of special language is needed. In our Original Research studies, the use of that language is especially important, so that other scientists and researchers can understand our methods and results — and even replicate them to fit their own animal advocacy research needs.
To help facilitate a better understanding of animal advocacy research, Faunalytics has launched a new resource: The Faunalytics Research Glossary.
In it, you will find straightforward definitions for common research terms, with examples of usage from real studies. Our hope is that you will refer back to this glossary whenever you don’t know a term on our site, and it will help you gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the subject. We’re firm believers that knowing better leads to doing better, and we’ll continue doing everything we can to help you improve your advocacy and understanding of research so that we can all do better for animals.