Sociological Research Methods

Sociological Research
The Research Process
• Sociologists answer
questions about
society through
empirical research
(observation and
• Collect data in
objective, logical,
systematic way
(scientific method)
Step 1: Define the Problem
• Researchers selects a topic of study and
develops operational definitions of key
Step 2: Review the Literature
• Review existing literature on the subject to
learn how others have approached the
problem and what conclusions they have
Step 3: Form a Hypothesis
• Develop a testable hypothesis (prediction
about the relationship between two or
more variables) on the research topic
– Independent variable- characteristic that
causes change in another variable
– Dependent variable- characteristic changed
by the independent variable
Step 4: Choose a Research Design
• Develop a plan for collecting, analyzing,
and evaluating data
• Four main types of sociological research
– Surveys
– Analysis of Existing Sources
– Observations Study
– Experiment
Research Methods: Surveys
• Surveys allow collection of data on
attitudes and opinions from a sample of
– Questionnaires- questions or statements that
people respond to in writing
– Interviews- questions answered orally
Research Methods: Analysis of
Existing Sources
• Analyze existing information to make own conclusions
– Historical method- examination of past materials (artifacts,
written documents, etc.) to determine trends and changes
– Content analysis- counting how many times a particular word,
phrase, idea, or symbol appears in a given context
– Statistical analysis- analyzing
mathematical data to determine
the strength of the relationship
between variables, usually
producing a statistical average
(using mean, median, or mode)
Research Method: Observational
• Observation of behavior of individuals or
groups in actual social settings
– Detached observation- observation from a
– Participant observationresearchers directly involved
Research Method: Experiment
• Data gathered under controlled conditions
in which one group exposed to the
independent variable and the other is not
(control group)
Step 5: Collect Data
• Gather and carefully record data collected
through research
Step 6: Analyze the Data
• Objectively analyze data to determine
correlations or causation between variables and
whether the data supports the hypothesis
– Correlation- a change in one variable is regularly
associated with a change in another
– Causation- a change in one variable causes a change
in another
Step 7: Present Conclusions
• Present research findings to others so that
everyone can better understand the issue
and possibly so that the study can be
Ethical Issues in Research
• Sociologists are expected to follow ethical
standards of research for the welfare of the
people with whom they work
– Nondiscrimination- eliminate bias from study
– Confidentiality- protect private information of subjects
and participants
– Informed consent- participants informed of research
and agree to be part of it
– Social responsibility- use of knowledge to contribute
to the public good