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Social research is a type of research generally employed by social scientists to gain an understanding of individuals and societies. It involves the identification, exploration, evaluation, and prediction of social phenomena in regard to human behaviour.
Social research utilizes scientific methods to collect, evaluate, and analyse data on social phenomena. It attempts to identify the cause-and-effect relationship between variables in social dynamics and problems so that a solution can be found and perhaps even applied.
Social research has many different applications, making it an important form of research. It is a source of knowledge that allows researchers to expand on existing theories or develop new ones. It is also a useful tool to promote social cohesion and unity as it can be used to understand the causes of problematic areas between two groups so that a solution can be found.
Another pivotal use of social research is that it facilitates social planning. When societies want to develop and bring in social growth and development, social research facilitates the social planning that will be required. This allows structural changes to be created in social life; changes that will improve the quality of life and increase social welfare.
The following are a few key objectives of social research:
Knowledge Development: Another key objective of social research is to develop existing knowledge. Scientific research is recorded and preserved and therefore adds to the knowledge of social phenomena.
The classification of social research can be based on many typologies. We will specifically explore the types of social research classified by nature of data, the purpose of research, and the focus of research.
When classifying social research by the nature of data, there are two distinct categories; quantitative and qualitative data. Qualitative research deals with techniques and measures that do not produce numerical data, while quantitative research includes techniques and measures that produce distinct, numerical, or quantifiable data.
When classifying social research by its purpose, we see two main categories; applied and basic. Basic research, also known as fundamental research, is used to understand problems that occur in social settings and how to solve them. The purpose of basic research is to understand the social problem, but it may not involve any immediate or planned application. It predominantly contributes to theory formation.
Applied research, on the other hand, helps find a solution to a social problem. The results from applied research are used practically to solve problems and therefore have an immediate application.
Social research can be theoretical or it can be empirical. It is theoretical when it is concerned with developing or testing the theories of social researchers. It is empirical when the research is based on measurements and observations of the world around us.
The four main types of social research are as follows:
Surveys are conducted by creating a questionnaire that has open-ended and closed-ended questions on a specific topic. These surveys are then deployed to the sample group; a representative subgroup of the target population. Surveys can be conducted using a range of digital and non-digital channels such as email, website, face-to-face, etc. Surveys are one of the most cost-effective and efficient methods to gather information as they can be conducted via the internet.
There are many types of social research surveys including longitudinal, cross-sectional, and correlational; each serves a slightly different purpose.
In this technique, respondents are asked questions face-to-face, via telephone, or through other online mediums. Interviews are a very useful tool to obtain data as they allow researchers to better understand and explore subjects’ opinions and behaviours. This method is also very useful when trying to collect in-depth and comprehensive data.
Observational research involves studying subjects in their natural environment. In this method, researchers are expected to observe participants by being involved in their daily life. This helps obtain data on participants’ routines, decision-making skills, behaviours, likes, dislikes, etc. The variables being studied are closely observed, monitored, and measured to obtain the data required.
Experimental research is conducted by adhering to a strict scientific research design. It generally involves studying different variables, namely the independent and dependent variables, in a controlled environment where the cause and effect relationship between the two can be studied.
Social research is the study of social phenomena and human behaviour. It is used by social scientists to learn about individuals and societies and allows them to discover or verify the sequences, interrelationships, and causal explanations of social phenomena.
Social research can be classified in many ways. When categorized by the nature of data, there is quantitative or qualitative. When categorized by the purpose of research, there is applied or basic. When categorized by the focus of research, there is theoretical or empirical.
There are four main methods used to conduct social research and they are: