Uncovering the Essentials of Research Methodology in Sociology


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Table of Contents


What is a Research Methodology?

A research methodology is simply an outline of the tools, techniques, and procedures used within a research study to gather data, analyse it, and interpret it. It explains what steps you took during your research, as well as why and how you took them. This section of a research paper provides readers with the opportunity to evaluate the validity and reliability of your research. 

A good research methodology will include the following: 

  • Type of Research Conducted
  • Data Collection Methods Employed
  • Data Analysis Methods Employed
  • Tools and Techniques used to Carry out the Research 
  • A Rationale to Substantiate why Certain Methods were Chosen
  • Limitations of Methods Employed

Research Methodology in Sociology

Sociology involves the study of social life, social dynamics, social causes, and social institutions. Research studies conducted in the field of sociology are carefully planned and employ well-established procedures that facilitate the objective collection and evaluation of data. Its aim is to gather information that accurately reflects social dynamics rather than simply using researchers’ interpretations to explain these dynamics. 

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Sources of Data used in Social Research

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We can classify sources of data used in social research in two ways:

  1. Primary and Secondary Data: Primary data refers to information that is gathered first-hand by researchers using methods such as interviews, experiments, surveys, etc. Secondary data, on the other hand, refers to information that already exists and has been collected by previous researchers or organizations. It includes sources such as existing research papers, government reports, newspapers, etc. 
  2. Quantitative and Qualitative Data: Quantitative data refers to information that takes a numerical or statistical form while qualitative data refers to information that takes a non-numerical form such words, visuals, or audios.  

Research Methods used in Sociology

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Let’s take a look at some key primary research methods used in sociology: 

  • Social Surveys: This is the most commonly used research technique in sociology. It involves the use of a structured questionnaire that is designed to gather information from a large number of people from a certain population. 
  • Experiments: Experiments involve studying the cause-and-effect relationship between variables in a controlled environment. A hypothesis is created based on limited evidence and once the experiment is carried out, its outcome allows for the rejection or verification of the hypothesis. 

There are two key types of experiments; labaratory and field experiments. Laboratory experiments take place in a controlled environment whereas field experiements take place in real-life settings which are uncontrolled environments. 

  • Interviews: In this method of data collection, information is gathered by asking respondents questions orally through the phone or even face-to-face. 

There are three main types of interviews; structured, unstructured, and semi-structured interviews. Structured interviews follow a script that is read out by an interviewer; it comprises pre-set, standardised, and generally closed questions. Unstructured interviews follow a more conversational structure; researchers ask open-ended questions that produce comprehensive qualitative data. Semi-structured interviews have a certain amount of open-ended questions that are asked to all respondents. These questions are then followed by a certain amount of differentiated questions based on the respondent’s answer to the intial questions. Semi-structured interviews, therefore, have characteristics of structured and unstructured interviews. 

  • Observation: Participant observation involves researchers joining their subjects in their natural environment to observe how they behave in real social settings. Participant observations can either be covert or overt. When it is overt, respondents are aware that they are a part of a sociological research project. When it is covert, or undercover, respondents believe that the researcher is ‘one of them’ and are likely unaware that they are a part of a research study. 

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FAQs on Research Methodology in Sociology

A research methodology is the part of a research paper that explains the methods and techniques employed in the study for the collection and analysis of data.

Sources of data in the study of sociology can be classified in two ways; 

  • Primary and Secondary Data: Primary data is first-hand data obtained directly by the researcher themselves while secondary data is pre-existing data that has already been collected by someone else. 
  • Quantitative and Qualitative Data: Quantitative data involves data regarding numeric variables and qualitative data involves data regarding categorical or textual variables.

The following are the key primary research methods used in the study of sociology: 

  • Experiments
  • Participant Observation
  • Interviews
  • Social Surveys

The most commonly used method of data collection used in social research is social surveys. Compared to other methods, social surveys are inexpensive and easy to conduct.

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