We hope that this glossary will help to explain some of the more technical terms used in documents hosted by this resource kit. Whilst it is not a comprehensive list, it is designed to assist non-specialist users and will be regularly updated.

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  • Baseline

    An interpretive tool comprised of statistics against which you can compare indicators from your selected population that are from a different period of time, a different place or a different population. Baseline data often describes a situation that existed before an event, which can be defined in many ways, depending on the operational context. An event might be a drought or an incident of political upheaval, or it may simply be the first time the indicators were ever measured. You can compare your dataset against the baseline data to see how the situation you’re studying appears when weighed against the situation as measured before the event. In other words, baseline data can help you to interpret the impact of an event.

  • Bias

    Difference between the measurement result and its true value. It can be caused by a deliberate attempt to represent the information from a particular angle or by systematic mistakes in the methodology used.

  • Coding

    Coding refers to an analytical process in which data, in both quantitative form (such as questionnaire results) and qualitative (such as interview transcripts) are categorized to facilitate analysis. Coding means the transformation of data into a form understandable by computer software. This minimizes the chance of errors and increases the reliability of data.

  • Community-based approach

    A way of working that is based on an inclusive partnership with communities of persons of concern that recognizes their resilience, capacities and resources. It mobilizes and builds on these to deliver protection, assistance and solutions while supporting community processes and goals.

    (Handbook for the Protection of Internally Displaced Persons, Global Protection Cluster Working Group, March 2010)

  • Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP)

    A programming process through which national, regional and international relief systems (including United Nations operational agencies; and where appropriate to the situation, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFCR), the International organization for Migration (IOM), non-governmental organizations, bilateral donors, as well as appropriate national and regional structures) are able to mobilize and respond to selective major or complex emergencies that require a system-wide response to humanitarian crises.

    (IASC, Consolidated Appeal Process Guidelines, April 1994)

  • Data Dissemination

    Dissemination is the release to users of information obtained through a statistical activity. Data dissemination consists of distributing or transmitting statistical data to users. Various release media are possible; for example: electronic format including the internet, CD-ROM, paper publications, files available to authorized users or for public use; fax response to a special request, public speeches, press releases.

    Dissemination formats: The concept of dissemination formats is divided into two categories: "hardcopy" and "electronic" publications, which detail the reference documents through which users may access the data described in the metadata and, where relevant, detailed components beyond the minimum prescribed. "Supplementary Data" refers to a description of data not routinely disseminated that are made available to users upon request. It may include customized tabulations that can be provided (perhaps for a fee) to meet specific requests, or information on procedures for obtaining additional supplementary data.

  • Data Protection

    Data relating to an individual must be managed effectively and securely to ensure that it can be accessed only by authorized people. Uncontrolled access to personal data can expose individuals to potentially damaging or dangerous situations.

  • Database

    A database is a file containing a structured collection of related sets of information; each set is referred to as a record. Databases can be constructed as a text, spread sheet, or relational database file.

  • Demography

    Demography is the statistical study of human populations and sub-populations. It can be a very general science that can be applied to any kind of dynamic human population, meaning one that changes over time or space. It encompasses the study of the size, structure, and distribution of these populations, and spatial and/or temporal changes in them in response to birth, migration, aging, and death.

  • Flow Monitoring

    This is a suitable tool to be used for data collection at the community level. People doing the counting, (enumerators) are based at areas of significant movement such as: internal checkpoints, major road junctions, rivers or sea ports, entry points to camps, towns, settlements. The goal is to estimate arrival and departure rates which can then in turn be used to adjust population estimates.

  • Focus Groups Discussions

    Focus group discussions are used for collecting information at the group/ community level. The method entails organizing and conducting a group discussion while ensuring that the group is ‘representative’ of all segments of the community- for example, women, men, community elders, adolescents, etc.

    (Guidance on Profiling Internally Displaced Persons, edited by NRC-IDMC and OCHA, April 2008)

  • Form

    A display of fields in an information system. Forms can either be electronic, which refers to the screen you’re looking at on your computer with database fields laid out on it, or it can be a hardcopy piece of paper, which is used to collect data. Forms can either be used for data entry or for displaying read-only information. Forms are necessary in order to present data from tables in a user-friendly, logical way, in a way that will support the information system’s operational requirements.

  • Framework on Durable Solutions for IDPs

    The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) present Framework on Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) aims to provide clarity on the concept of a durable solution and provides general guidance on how to achieve it. This version of the Framework builds on a pilot version released in 2007, which the Inter-Agency Standing Committee welcomed and suggested be field-tested. The Framework was revised and finalized in 2009, taking into account valuable feedback from the field on the pilot version and subsequent drafts.

    A number of criteria determine to what extent a durable solution has been achieved. IDPs who have achieved a durable solution will enjoy without discrimination:

    Long-term safety, security and freedom of movement;

    An adequate standard of living, including at a minimum access to adequate food, water, housing, health care and basic education;

    Access to employment and livelihoods;

    Access to effective mechanisms that restore their housing, land and property or provide them with compensation.

    In a number of contexts, it will also be necessary for IDPs to benefit, without discrimination, from the following to achieve a durable solution:

    Access to and replacement of personal and other documentation;

    Voluntary reunification with family members separated during displacement;

    Participation in public affairs at all levels on an equal basis with the resident population;

    Effective remedies for displacement-related violations, including access to justice, reparations and information about the causes of violations.

    The search for any of these durable solutions for IDPs should be understood as:

    A gradual, often long-term process of reducing displacement-specific needs and ensuring the enjoyment of human rights without discrimination;

    A complex process that addresses human rights, humanitarian, development, reconstruction and peace-building challenges;

    A process requiring the coordinated and timely engagement of different actors

  • Geographic Information System (GIS)

    A geographic information system, geographical information science, or geospatial information studies is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyse, manage, and present all types of geographically referenced data.  In the simplest terms, GIS is the merging of cartography, statistical analysis, and database technology.

  • Household

    The household (HH) is "the basic residential unit in which economic production, consumption, inheritance, child rearing, and shelter are organized and/or carried out"; [the household] "may or may not be synonymous with family". The household is the basic unit of analysis in many social, microeconomic and government models. The term refers to all individuals who live in the same dwelling.

  • IDP Profiling

    The 2008 Guidance of Profiling Internally Displaced Persons defines IDP profiling as “the collaborative process of identifying internally displaced groups or individuals through data collection, including counting, and analysis, in order to take action to advocate on their behalf, to protect and assist them and, eventually, to help bring about a solution to their displacement”.

    An IDP Profile is an overview of an IDP population that shows, at a minimum: 1) Number of displaced persons, disaggregated by age and sex (even if only estimates), and 2) Locations. Wherever possible, additional information could include, but not limited to: 3) Cause of displacement, 4) Patterns of Displacement 5) Protection Concerns 6) Humanitarian Needs, 7) Potential solutions for the groups/ individual, if available.

    JIPS encourages the use of the term “profiling of IDP situations” instead of IDP profiling.

  • Indicator

    Indicators are the quantitative or qualitative parameters (or yardsticks or measures) that determine, over time, performance of functions, processes, and outcomes, which imply that certain conditions exist. An indicator reflects the prevailing circumstances at a given place at a given time or during a time interval. It is a tool by which we can measure the conditions of persons of concern situations and measure our progress within them. It is usually, but not always, a number or percentage that can be used to extrapolate multiple things. For example, an indicator that tracks how many girls are in school might be used in assessing the future earning potential of a population, women's literacy rates, women's rights and women's health issues. Indicators are selected (since we cannot measure everything) on the basis of how useful they are, their relevance to planned objectives and their measurability.


  • Information Graphics/ InfoGraphics

    Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge. These graphics present complex information quickly and clearly, such as in signs, maps, journalism, technical writing, and education. With an information graphic, computer scientists, mathematicians, and statisticians develop and communicate concepts using a single symbol to process information.

  • Internally Displaced Person (IDP)

    An IDP is a person who has been forced or obliged to flee, or to leave their homes or place of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence or violations of human rights, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border.

  • Key Informant Interviews

    They are qualitative, in-depth interviews of people selected for their first-hand knowledge about a topic of interest. The interviews are loosely structured, relying on a list of issues to be discussed. Key informant interviews resemble a conversation among acquaintances, allowing a free flow of ideas and information. Interviewers frame questions spontaneously, probe for information and takes notes, which are elaborated on later.

  • Likert Scale

    A Likert scale is a scale commonly involved in research that employs questionnaires. When responding to a Likert questionnaire item, respondents specify their level of agreement or disagreement on a symmetric agree-disagree scale for a series of statements. Thus, the range captures the intensity of their feelings for a given item, while the results of analysis of multiple items (if the items are developed appropriately) reveal a pattern that has scaled properties.

  • Non-Response/ Non-Response Bias

    Non-response bias occurs in statistical surveys if the answers of respondents differ from the potential answers of those who did not answer. If one selects a sample of 1000 managers in a field and polls them about their workload, the managers with a high workload may not answer the survey because they do not have enough time to answer it, and/or those with a low workload may decline to respond for fear that their supervisors or colleagues will perceive them as unnecessary (either immediately, if the survey is non-anonymous, or in the future, should their anonymity be compromised by collusion, "leaks," insufficient procedural precautions, or data-security breaches). Therefore, non-response bias may make the measured value for the workload too low, too high, or, if the effects of the above biases happen to offset each other, "right for the wrong reasons”.

  • Participatory Assessment

    A process of building partnerships with women and men of concern of all ages and backgrounds, by promoting meaningful participation through structured dialogue.

    (Handbook for the Protection of Internally Displaced Persons, Global Protection Cluster Working Group, March 2010)


  • Periodicity/ Frequency

    The standard period of time in which you need to collect a particular kind of data for measurement. For example, you might need to collect mortality data daily, or monthly.

    Each indicator is associated with a frequency of measurement. The frequency used to measure an indicator will vary according to the nature of the indicator and the situation in which the indicator occurs. There may be different frequency for measuring emergency situations and stable situations.

  • Population Census

    A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. In its most basic form, a population census collects information on age, sex and location of individuals and households.

  • Probability Sampling

    A probability sampling method is any method of sampling that utilizes some form of random selection.

    In order to have a random selection method, you must set up a process or procedure that assures that the different units in your population have equal probabilities of being chosen. Humans have long practiced various forms of random selection, such as picking a name out of a hat, or choosing the short straw. These days, we tend to use computers as the mechanism for generating random numbers as the basis for random selection.

  • Probing

    In order to clarify the meaning of certain answers, survey interviewers are frequently trained to uncover the answers by using visual clues. If interviewers are guided to probe, care should be taken that the same approach is used by all interviewers to minimize bias. Note: Instructions on probing are often given for "Don't Know" answers.

  • Process Flow Diagram

    A diagram that visually depicts the flow of information through a data management system. Process flow diagrams should explicitly show all inputs and outputs of a data system, as well as any points in the system where the data is transformed. These diagrams are useful in operational planning, developing a new system, analysing an existing system or comparing two systems.

  • Qualitative Data

    Qualitative data, as opposed to quantitative data, is non-measurable. It captures feelings, personal experience, attitudes and intentions. Examples of sources of qualitative data include focus groups, observations, interviews, narrative texts and reports. Participatory assessment is a method used to gather qualitative data from different groups within a community.

  • Quantitative Data

    Quantitative data is that which is numerical or measurable. It is produced by observing and measuring things that can be counted or calculated. Compared to qualitative datasets, quantitative datasets are easier to store and analyse in a database. However, qualitative data provides an important context in which to interpret quantitative data.

  • Rapid Population Estimate

    Emergencies resulting in large-scale displacement often lead to populations resettling in areas where basic health services and sanitation are unavailable. To plan relief-related activities quickly, rapid population size estimates are needed. The currently recommended quadrant method estimates total population by extrapolating the average population size living in square blocks of known area to the total site surface. An alternative approach, the T-Square, provides a population estimate based on analysis of the spatial distribution of housing units taken throughout a site. It is important to consider the location. Although applicable only to similar sites, several general conclusions can be drawn for emergency planning.

  • Registration

    Registration is the process of recording, verifying, and updating information on persons of concern to humanitarian agencies with the aim of protecting and documenting them and of implementing durable solutions.

    (Handbook for the Protection of Internally Displaced Persons, Global Protection Cluster Working Group, March 2010)

  • Relational Database

    A relational database is comprised of multiple tables that use unique identifiers to show relationships between different types of records.

  • Remote Sensing

    Remote sensing is the acquisition of information about an object or phenomenon, without making physical contact with the object.

    In modern usage, the term generally refers to the use of aerial sensor, aerial images/ photography and technologies to detect and classify objects on Earth (both on the surface, and in the atmosphere and oceans) by means of propagated signals (e.g. electromagnetic radiation emitted from aircraft or satellites).

  • Sampling Frame

    Set of materials from which sample is actually selected, such as a list or set of areas.

  • Scanning

    In computing, an image scanner—often abbreviated to just scanner—is a device that optically scans images, printed text, handwriting, or an object, and converts it to a digital image. For survey scanning, there are two approaches that can be used:

    1) OCR: Optical character recognition, usually abbreviated to OCR, is the mechanical or electronic translation of scanned images of handwritten, typewritten or printed text into machine-encoded text. It is widely used to convert books and documents into electronic files, to computerize a record-keeping system in an office, or to publish the text on a website. 

    2) OMR: Optical Mark Recognition (also called Optical Mark Reading and OMR) is the process of capturing human-marked data from document forms such as surveys and tests. This method does not read characters. If OCR forms are used during a profiling or needs assessment, it is important to train interviewers on writing machine readable characters.

    For quality control purposes, additional programming or human intervention might be required to review handwritten documents digitized by machine.

  • Shape File

    A shape file is a popular geospatial vector data format for geographic information systems software. It is developed and regulated by Esri as a (mostly) open specification for data interoperability among Esri and other GIS software products. Shape files spatially describe geometries: points, polylines, and polygons. These, for example, could represent water wells, rivers, and lakes, respectively. Each item may also have attributes that describe the items, such as the name or temperature.

  • Skip Pattern

    Questions that start with something like "If you answered ‘No' to the previous question", are examples of questions that require survey designers to establish a skip pattern. It is essential to articulate skip patterns when providing written instructions to an interviewer during a paper based interview method and/or when programming a computer assisted interview method (online, smartphone) to be administered to a respondent. When skip patterns are well implemented, they make the survey highly relevant and engaging.

  • Smartphone

    A smartphone is a high-end mobile phone built on a mobile computing platform, with more advanced computing ability and connectivity than a contemporary feature phone.

    More and more surveys and needs assessments are being administered on smartphones.

    Today's models also serve to combine the functions of portable media players, low-end compact digital cameras, pocket video cameras, and GPS  navigation units. Modern smart phones typically also include high-resolution touch screens, web browsers that can access and properly display standard web pages rather than just mobile-optimized sites, and high-speed data access via Wi-Fi and mobile broadband.

    The most common mobile operating systems (OS) used by modern smart phones include Google's Android, Apple's iOS, Microsoft's Windows Phone, Nokia's Symbian, RIM's BlackBerry OS, and embedded Linux distributions such as Maemo and MeeGo. Such operating systems can be installed on many different phone models, and typically each device can receive multiple OS software updates over its lifetime.

  • SPHERE standards

    Launched in 1997 by a group of humanitarian NGOs and the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, The Sphere Project is an initiative to define and uphold the standards by which the global community responds to the plight of people affected by disasters, principally through a set of guidelines that are set out in the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response (commonly referred to as the Sphere Handbook). Sphere is based on two core beliefs: first, that those affected by disaster or conflict have a right to life with dignity and therefore a right to protection and assistance, and second, that all possible steps should be taken to alleviate human suffering arising out of disaster and conflict. Sphere is three things; a handbook, a broad process of collaboration, and an expression of commitment to quality and accountability.

  • Standard Operating Procedures

    Written instructions describing how specific activities are to be conducted. SOPs ensure that treatment given to persons of concern meet standards and is provided in a fair and uniform manner. It is also essential that SOPs are dynamic and updated to reflect changes in operational processes and in the division of labour within the office.

  • Surveillance System

    A monitoring system that tracks special events (such as births, deaths, disease cases) over time within a particular population and at a given periodicity. With a surveillance system properly set up, the data updates are continuous, so you can have information on the monitored issues almost in real-time. Consequently, it is easy to compare trends over time and to monitor situations on a timely basis.

  • Survey

    A detailed study of a geographical area to gather data on a certain situation, including attitudes, impressions and opinions, by asking a series of questions to a part of the population.

  • Survey Fatigue

    Survey fatigue results from over-surveying. When a respondent who recently completed a survey from a particular organization is inundated with invitations to complete other surveys, they feel tired, or “fatigued” when it comes to taking surveys. This feeling can have adverse effects on response rates. Once a respondent forms an opinion that your organization doesn’t respect him/her because of over-surveying, it is very difficult to restore your image, not to mention the lowered response rates and lower-quality data that results.

  • Target population

    Definition of population intended to be covered by survey; also known as coverage universe.

  • Trend Analysis

    Trend Analysis is the practice of collecting information and attempting to spot a pattern, or trend, in the information.  Trend analysis can be retrospective, looking back into trends over time; it can also focus on a particular area. It is also used to study changes in social patterns including migration.

  • Triangulation

    A process of comparing and consolidating data from several different sources to obtain a more precise result. It is also referred to as cross-checking/ cross-referencing.

  • Unique Identifier

    A unique combination of characters (usually, but not always, a number) that is associated with a database record. Unique identifiers allow a database to individually recognize particular records, to distinguish one record from all other records.