Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, 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 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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core definition

Two meanings of the term control:

1. Social control: Control refers to a desire to restrain the activities of an individual or group.

2. Experimental/statistical control: Control refers to the attempt to elminate the effects of extraneous variables so that one may be sure than any results found are due only to the independent variables being tested.

explanatory context

Social control

A large amount of social theory is linked to views of the social world that are concerned about the nature and workings of social control mechanisms, see consensus theory, functionalism, structural functionalism, Durkheimian approach, social disorganisation


Control in statistical analysis

Methods of 'physical control' include using the same subject under all experimental conditions, using matched pairs, keeping an extraneous variable constant (e.g., by using only men) and randomly allocating subjects to the different groups.


A control group is a group of people as similar as possible to an experimental group and treated in exactly the same way except that they are not given the experimental treatment. The control group thus furnishes a base line against which the effects of this treatment may be measured. The degree of control is related to the extent to which the research situation is structured by the researcher.


Methods of 'statistical control' (e.g. control at the analysis stage) include seeing if a result holds goods for all groups in a sample (e.g., if the result holds good for boys and girls then the extraneous variable gender can be having no effect), matching out an extraneous variable at the analysis stage or making allowance for the effects of an extraneous variable by special statistical methods.

analytical review

Colorado State University (1993–2013) defines control group as:

A group in an experiment that receives not treatment in order to compare the treated group against a norm.


Raynet Sociology Glossary (undated) defines social control as follows:

Social control is the means and processes by which a group secures its members' conformity to its expectations - to its values, its ideology, its norms, and to the appropriate roles that are attached to the various status positions in the group. Some examples of social control are rejection, use of facial expressions, demotion of status position, gossip, murder, etc.


Richard Schaefer (2017):

Control group: Subjects in an experiment who are not introduced to the independent variable by the researcher.

Control theory: A view of conformity and deviance that suggests that our connection to members of society leads us to systematically conform to society's norms.


The NHS Health News Glossary, (NHS, undated) states:

A control group (of cells, individuals or centres, for example) serves as a basis of comparison in a study. In this group, no experimental stimulus is received.


associated issues


related areas

See also

Researching the Real World Section 8


Colorado State University, 1993–2013, Glossary of Key Terms available at, accessed 1 February 2013, still available 1 June 2019.

NHS, undated, Health News Glossary, available at, accessed 1 June 2019.

Raynet Sociology Glossary, undated, available at, no longer available 20 December 2016.

Schaefer, R. T., 2017, 'Glossary' in Sociology: A brief introduction, Fourth Edition, originally c. 2000, McGraw-Hill. Available at, site dated 2017, accessed 11 June 2017, page 'not found' 1 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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