In almost any research study, whether it is quantitative or qualitative, the researcher is interested in closely examining one or more variables. In the context of research, a variable is anything that can be both measured and operationally defined.
When a researcher is interested in understanding the relationship between two variables, he or she will generally use the correlational method in his or her study. It may help to remember that the word correlation means relationship or connection.
The correlational approach to research will usually employ two variables: the independent variable and the dependent variable. The independent variable will be changed or manipulated by the researcher. This way, the researcher can carefully observe and determine whether the dependent variable is affected by the change in the independent variable.
In a correlational research study, an examination of the independent and dependent variables can lead to a conclusion that there is a positive correlation, negative correlation, or no correlation. A positive correlation means that the dependent variable increases when the independent variable increases. In contrast, a negative correlation means that the dependent variable decreases when the independent variable increases. When there is no correlation, no visible relationship or connection between the two variables can be identified.