At first glance, it might seem that a synonym could clarify the meaning assumed for a keyword or phrase. However, for the precision needed in research, synonyms rarely suffice. Too frequently, they carry as many different meanings – or as many vague meanings – as the words they are supposed to elucidate.
In the main, the only occasions on which synonyms are suitable are ones in which a new, unfamiliar word can be adequately clarified with a familiar word or phrase. This can occur with places ( Kalimantan= Borneo, Vanuatu= New Hebrides, Myanmar= Burma), people ( Muhammad Ali= Cassius Clay), institutions or agencies ( State Department=foreign relations department), or conditions (Downs’ syndrome=mongolism).
A single sentence, or a few sentences, may be enough to explain the meaning the author assigns to a term within the boundaries of the author’s project.
The words comparative effectiveness, as intended throughout this thesis, refer to the relative accuracy of four methods of predicting high school students’ later success in college.
The term Mexican-American family in this study means a group of people of Mexican heritage, currently living in the United States, who are related by blood and are members of the same household.
Political party aspects on which the present investigation focuses are (a) amount of money spent on a local campaign, (b) the amount spent on different forms of advertising, (c) the number of active party workers, and (d) the socioeconomic composition of the registered party membership.
Sentence definitions often contain words that require further clarification in the form of additional sentences. Such is true of the terms high school students and later success in college in the first of our examples. It is also the case with Mexican heritage and related by blood in the second example and forms of advertising and active party workers in the third example. Sometimes it is desirable to tell not only what a key word is intended to mean, but also to explain what it is not intended to include. The purpose is to rule out unintended meanings that readers might reasonably assume unless they are told otherwise.
The phrase currently living in the United States refers to individuals who spend at least six months consecutively in the household. So, the phrase does not include short-term visitors nor family members who shuttle in and out of the household during a six-month period.
The word advertising means presenting to the public information and appeals by means of paid-for space in newspapers and paid-for time on radio and television. Party workers going door to door to solicit votes is not advertising in a sense intended here, nor does a report or editorial in the news media about a candidate or a political party qualify as advertising.