This jargon buster or glossary of words contains the definitions of some of the terms commonly used in public involvement in research. It is not a complete list of all the words you might come across. The definitions were developed for INVOLVE by TwoCan Associates working in consultation with a panel of researchers and a panel of people who use services.
The jargon buster can be searched by clicking on one of the letters below or browsing all terms.
With emancipatory research, people who use services, rather than professional researchers, have control of the whole research process. They plan and undertake the research, and interpret the findings. The main aim is always to empower people and improve people’s lives. ‘Professional’ researchers may be brought in as advisers or have specified roles within the project.
This is the process by which people who use services equip themselves with the knowledge, skills and resources they need to be able to take control over decisions and resources. It often involves people building confidence in their own strengths and abilities. It does not always mean people take control over all decisions or all resources.
Ethics are a set of principles that guide researchers who are carrying out research with people. Ethical principles are designed to protect the safety, dignity, rights and well-being of the people taking part. They include the requirement to ask each individual to give their informed consent to take part in a research project.
The job of an ethics committee is to make sure that research carried out respects the dignity, rights, safety and well-being of the people who take part. Increasingly ethics committee approval is needed for health and social care research. Ethics committee members include researchers and health care professionals as well as members of the public.
This involves assessing whether an intervention (for example a treatment, service, project, or programme) is achieving its aims. A project can be evaluated as it goes along or right at the end. An evaluation can measure how well the project is being carried out as well as its impact. The results of evaluations can help with decision-making and planning.
An evidence base is a collection of all the research data currently available about a health or social care topic, such as how well a treatment or a service works. This evidence is used by health and social care professionals to make decisions about the services that they provide and what care or treatment to offer people who use services.
This type of research allows researchers to explore cause and effect. For example, experimental research would be used to see whether a new drug is effective in reducing blood pressure. The research design (in this example a randomised controlled trial) will tell the researcher whether any reduction in blood pressure is definitely due to the drug.
The term ‘experts by experience’ refers to service users and carers, who are experts through their experience of illness or disability and services.
A focus group is a small group of people brought together to talk. The purpose is to listen and gather information. It is a good way to find out how people feel or think about an issue, or to come up with possible solutions to problems.
Grey literature is material that is less formal than an article in a peer review journal or a chapter in a book – so it’s not easily tracked down. It includes internal reports, committee minutes, conference papers, factsheets, newsletters and campaigning material. However, ‘grey literature’ may be made available on request and is increasingly available on the Internet.
Honorary contracts are required by anyone who wants to carry out research or observe people in an NHS setting, but who does not already have an employment contract or a volunteer contract with the relevant NHS Trust. The contract ensures that they are covered by NHS liability insurance, and that they are contractually bound to take proper account of the NHS duty of care.
Implementation involves putting research findings into practice. This means using research findings to make appropriate decisions and changes to health and social care policy and practice.
An intervention is something that aims to make a change and is tested through research. For example, giving a drug, providing a counselling service, improving the environment or giving people information and training are all described as interventions.
In research, an interview is a conversation between two or more people, where a researcher asks questions to obtain information from the person (or people) being interviewed. Interviews can be carried out in person (face-to-face) or over the phone.
Involvement in research refers to active involvement between people who use services, carers and researchers, rather than the use of people as participants in research (or as research ‘subjects’). Many people describe involvement as doing research with or by people who use services rather than to, about or for them.
A journal is a regular publication in which researchers formally report the results of their research to people who share a similar interest or experience. Each journal usually specialises in one particular topic area. The British Medical Journal (BMJ), British Journal of Social Work and The Lancet are examples of journals.
The term ‘lay’ means non-professional. In research, it refers to the people who are neither academic researchers nor health or social care professionals.
A lay summary is a brief summary of a research project or a research proposal that has been written for members of the public, rather than researchers or professionals. It should be written in plain English, avoid the use of jargon and explain any technical terms that have to be included.
INVOLVE uses this term to cover:• patients and potential patients• people who use health and social care services• informal (unpaid) carers• parents/guardians• disabled people• members of the public who are potential recipients of health promotion programmes, public health programmes, and social service interventions• groups asking for research because they believe they have been exposed to potentially harmful substances or products (for example pesticides or asbestos)• organisations that represent people who use services.
Other organisations have different definitions of this term.
A mentor is a person willing to share their experience, knowledge and wisdom to help, guide and support someone who is less experienced. Mentors act as friends, teachers and advisers. A person who is newly involved in research can ask for a mentor to help them adjust to their new role.