[FAQ] What are independent / dependent variables?


A variable is an object, event, quantity, time period or basically something you are trying to measure. We can then further discriminate between two types of variables: independent and dependent.

Independent variables

An independent variable is exactly what it sounds like, it isn't changed by the other variables you are trying to measure - in fact strictly speaking YOU are the one that controlled the independent variable in YOUR experiment. Example, temperature could be independent variable or maybe age in a medical trail. Thus it is something that is controlled in an experiment or study (like plant growth at different set temperatures) or isn't influenced by other factors (how much water you give plants isn't going to change the temperature in a controlled experiment, or how much medicine you give a patient is not going to change his/her age). In fact, in these analyses people attempt to find if the independent variable causes some kind of change in the other variables, or dependent variables.

Dependent variables

And now I've hinted at what a dependent variable is; a dependent variable is exactly what it sounds like. It is something that depends on other factors. For example, plant growth can definitely be affected by temperature or the effectiveness of a medicine may decline or increase with age.

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