Glossary MIT Terms


Measurement of a system prior to the introduction of a change or intervention.

Categorical Data

Data that can be organised into categories.

Continuous Data

Data that can take any value within a range.


Query if we need any of these.

Driver Diagram

A tool that helps to break down an aim statement into manageable parts.

Family of Measures

A group of outcome, process and balancing measures that together can facilitate better understanding of the impact of changes.

Focus Groups

A qualitative data collection method that brings together a group of people to take part in a facilitated discussion on a specific topic or set of open questions.

Funnel Plot

A funnel plot is a type of SPC chart in which values are plotted by size (smallest to largest which results in a funnel shape) to show the variation among different organisations (e.g. hospitals).

Interview Questions

Interview questions are a pre-prepared list of open questions used in qualitative interviews or focus groups which the interviewer or researcher asks the participants.


A communication tool developed for clinical handover that comprises specific elements based on Identification, Situation, Background, Assessment and Recommendation.

Measurement for Improvement

The analysis and presentation of qualitative and quantitative data in a format that allows us to:

  • Identify opportunities for improvement
  • Demonstrate when a change has resulted in an improvement

Measurement Plan

A tool that is used to plan, record and agree measurement activities.


A qualitative method whereby participants are observed, watched or shadowed in a natural setting (in their work setting for example) by the researcher who notes events and interactions as they occur.

Operational Definitions

A clear and detailed description of a measure with the intention of ensuring consistency of data collection and analysis.

Pareto Chart

A tool consisting of a bar chart and a line chart for visualising the frequency with which events occur in order to focus on areas of improvement with the greatest impact.

PDSA Cycles

The Plan, Do, Study, Act Cycle is a framework for an efficient trial-and- learning methodology used as part of the Model for Improvement. The cycle begins with a plan and ends with action taken based on the learning gained from each phase of the cycle. The four steps consist of planning the details of the test and making predictions about the outcomes (Plan), conducting the plan and collecting data (do), comparing predictions to the data collected (Study), and taking action based on the new knowledge (Act).


Population refers to the total number of cases that that can be included as research subjects.

Quality Improvement

Quality improvement (QI) is the combined and unceasing efforts of everyone - healthcare professionals, patients and their families, researchers, commissioners, providers and educators - to make the changes that will lead to

  • better patient outcomes
  • better experience of care
  • continued development and supporting of staff in delivering quality care

Qualitative Data

Qualitative data is non-numerical information that can be captured through a variety of qualitative methods including interviews, focus groups, observations and written documents.

Qualitative Interviews

A qualitative data collection method where there is direct communication between an interviewer/researcher and a participant. This can occur face-to-face, on the telephone or through internet video services. Interviews can be structured (whereby each participant is asked the same list of questions), semi-structured (the interviewer/researcher has flexibility to reword the question or topics and to pursue new issues as they emerge) or unstructured (no pre-prepared topic guide or structured questions).

Qualitative methods are used to collect qualitative information or data. Qualitative methods include structured or unstructured in-depth interviews, focus groups, participant observation, documentary analysis and visual methods.

Quantitative Data

Quantitative data is data that is structured and can be represented numerically.

Random Sampling

A sample selected from a population where every case has an equal chance of being included in the sample and the composition of the sample cannot be predicted.

Run Chart

A run chart is a graphical display of data plotted in time order. It usually includes a centre line based on the median of the values.


Stakeholders are a person, group, organisation, or system who affects or can be affected by an organisation’s actions. Health service provider’s stakeholders, for example, include its patients, employees, medical staff, government, insurers, industry and the community.

Statistical Process Control (SPC) Chart

An SPC chart consists of values plotted in order, usually over time (weeks, months etc). It includes a centre line based on the average of the values. It also includes upper and lower control limits based on statistical calculations (3 sigma deviations from the average).

SPC charts are used as a tool to distinguish between special and common causes of variation.


Stratification is a method of organising a population in order to improve the representativeness of a sample.

Subject Matter Experts

In the context of healthcare subject matter experts include staff and service users with knowledge of a specific healthcare system or service.


A set of questions with a set range of answers in a format that enables standardised, relatively structured data to be gathered about each of a (usually) large number of cases which can be represented numerically. Some surveys include open questions which allow the respondent to answer the question in their own words.

Survey Monkey

Survey Monkey is an online survey platform which allows you to customise your survey questions and to monitor and analyse your responses.

Targeted Sampling

Target or purposeful sampling are a sample of selected cases that will best enable the researcher to explore the research questions in depth.

Thematic Analysis

Thematic analysis is used in qualitative research as a process of identifying and interpreting key themes or ideas in raw data.

Time Series

Data that are displayed in time series are ordered chronologically, e.g. by day, month, year.

Topic Guide

A topic guide or interview guide is a pre-prepared list of topics or open questions, key points or prompts used in qualitative interviews and focus groups helping the interviewer or researcher to remember the issues and questions to introduce, reminds them to probe and follow up on the participant’s responses. Topic guides can be used across a series of interviews or focus groups.


Triangulation is a measure of research quality; where different types of data are collected to address the same question or aim, each data set can be used to check the findings of the other.

Voice of the Patient

Patients’ (and their families’) perspectives, opinions and views.