Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-19, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 23 January, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2019.


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core definition

In general an attribute is a variable that can take only certain fixed values: sometimes known as a discrete variable.

explanatory context

In some cases where the categories cannot be ordered (e.g., race, religious affiliation) the variables are measured at a nominal level. In other cases where the categories can be ordered (e.g., social class) the variables are measured at the ordinal level. In this latter case they are sometimes known as ordered attributes. Where an attribute can take only two values (e.g., male or female) it is sometimes known as a dichotomous variable.


In information technology an attribute is the name given to a facet (or variable) of an entity. When represented in a database an attribute is represented by columns (sometimes referred to as domains) while the entity is represented by rows (called tuples), where each row is an occurrence of the entity.


A group of related attributes (such as day, month and year of birth) together form a data element in the database, each separate attribute or item of information is a data item represented by a single field or cell in a database. Each cell contains a data item value.

analytical review

associated issues

See also


related areas

See also



copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2019


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