What is a Dependent Variable?

In science, there are two common types of variables, independent and dependent variables. 

There is a relationship between variables.

A concept that commonly causes confusion among individuals is the difference between dependent and independent variables.

You are seeing what kind of reactions occur when you change something in your experiment.

dependent variable notecards

What is a Variable?

A variable is anything that can be changed in an experiment. There are a wide range of variables, but a few examples of variables include,

  • Time Period
  • Object
  • Idea
  • Event

Dependent Variables

Dependent variables in science are the variables that are being measured, or tested, in an experiment. They are observed and recorded during the experiment.

These variables are not changed by the experimenter, but by the independent variable if there is correlation between the two variables.

For example, we could conduct a scientific experiment on health in individuals. Health levels would be the dependent variable in the experiment because it can change based on multiple factors.

The dependent variable is the ‘effect’ in a cause and effect relationship.

Independent Variables

Independent variables in science are the variables that you manipulate or change. It is controlled by the experimenter.

We can use plant growth as an example. If you’re performing an experiment on plant growth, an independent variable could be the amount of water you give the plant.

If an independent variable changes, then an effect is seen in the dependent variable. In other words, the independent variable is the ‘cause’ in a cause and effect relationship.

Control Variables

Besides independent and dependent variables, there are also controlled variables. Controlled variables are constant and unchanged throughout the entire experiment.

Referring back to the example of a scientific experiment on plant growth, the temperature could be a controlled variable as long as it stays consistent throughout the experiment.

A rule of thumb for remembering the difference between the variables is that dependent variables are ‘dependent’ on the independent variable.

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